Michael Moore is a divisive film-maker. Acerbic and essential, smug and self-effacing, indispensable and irrelevant, Moore and his films have been praised and damned in equal measure over the years. Ultimately though, a large part of whether or not you enjoy his films comes down to your own political leanings and how tolerable you find Moore himself.
I, personally. am a fan of Moore, particularly his earlier works such as Roger & Me and Bowling For Columbine. However, his films are certainly not without their faults, and some of his auteur signatures seem to include an overblown editing style and featuring himself too much on camera. These elements are both present and correct in his new film, which won’t win over any of Moore’s naysayers. This is a shame however, as despite it’s faults, it is an enjoyable and eye-opening travelogue which presents a number of ideas for positive change.
Originally released at the end of last year in a limited run in Moore’s homeland to gain Oscar eligibility, Where To Invade Next landed on British shores in June. The set-up this time sees Moore takes on the role of cultural envoy to America; ‘invading’ other countries and stealing their good ideas to take home.
Past films have proved that Moore likes a gimmick: Here he plants an American flag once he has invaded a country, much to the bemusement of the natives. It’s a technique that gets tiresome very quickly. Even Moore himself seems to lose interest as the film goes b but this flimsy framing device allows for an insightful exploration of European values and forward thinking ideals.
The film sees Moore taking a whirlwind trip around a host of European nations, with a quick jaunt across the Mediterranean to Tunisia thrown in for good measure. Alongside beautiful shots of each country, we see Moore astounded by Italy’s eight annual weeks of holiday (“no wonder Italians always look like they’ve just finished having sex”) and France’s impeccable school lunches, and humbled by Germany’s dedication to not forgetting it’s past and Icelandic CEOs who berate him for living in a such a self serving nation.
As previously mentioned, the director’s trademark film-making style is in full effect here, however, in this context his brash delivery works well. Moore casts himself as the embodiment of America and it’s values, full of mock ignorance and indignation at the merest thought that doing something differently could possibly yield positive results.
Overall, however, this is a far less vitriolic and tub-thumping film than we have come to expect from America’s arch polemicist. Widening the focus from a single hot button topic to a more sprawling journey allows us to see not only the negative elements of America (although they are certainly shown in their abundance) but also cultural counterpoints from a variety of forward thinking nations who are showing that real change is possible.
The film also manages to balance it’s hyperactive editing style and tongue-in-cheek humour with it’s more sombre moments. Moore is smart enough to realise when to reign in his shtick and let images and words speak for themselves, and at times the film can pack a real emotional punch.
It’s been six years since Moore’s last film (Capitalism: A Love Story) and it’s good to have him back. He hasn’t really changed his stripes, and he won’t be winning over any of his critics, but Moore has created an enjoyably optimistic and eye-opening love letter to Europe.
WHERE TO INVADE NEXT IS OUT ON DVD AND BLU-RAY NOW!