Roger & Me (1989)

(On DVD, January 2004) Most Michael Moore fans discovered him with this film and then followed his career through Canadian Bacon and the rest. I had to start with 2002’s Bowling For Columbine and work my way back, but the big surprise is that even fifteen years later, Roger & Me is still as relevant than it was back in 1989. This feature-length opinion piece (not exactly a documentary, mind you) detailing the downfall of Flint, Michigan along with General Motors’ plant closure still resonates in this Bush II era of offshoring and jobless recovery. A colourful cast of real characters makes good fodder for Moore’s omnipresent camera, along with some staggering revelations coming forth unsolicited. Yes, this is a film that practises misdirection: The chronological order of some events is jumbled up and there’s the obvious feeling that Moore is cherry-picking his material. But that, in itself, does nothing to invalidate Moore’s thesis and even less to diminish the emotional impact of the film. Through its numerous tangents (“Pet or Meat: Rabbits for sale”) and sometimes gratuitous grandstanding, Moore manages to produce a mesmerizing piece of cinema that’s as compelling as great fiction. The editing of the film alone is a model in indictment: I especially liked how careful juxtaposition of scenes managed to make four frail old ladies seem the most evil quartet on planet Earth. Also up for props: The self-serving words of a corporate executive, intercut with heart-breaking scenes of a family being evicted on Christmas Eve. Great stuff. Alas, few things have changed since then. The DVD includes a commentary by Moore which, while interesting and informative, also seems half-lacking in substance.

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