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Where To Invade NextUSA 2015
Directed by Michael Moore
Running time 110 minutes
Synopsis: Controversial documentarian Michael Moore plunders Europe for good ideas to take back to America.
Surprisingly I’d not seen a Michael Moore film prior to this. His reputation as an agent provocateur and crusader against the American military-industrial oligarchy seemed to pretty much make it unnecessary. I’m happy to report that his newest film has a broader canvas and a less tendentious agenda while its writer-director’s dry humour makes for an often-amusing experience.
Despite his film’s title, Moore is not out to expose America’s militarist foreign policy but rather is providing us with a satirical look at its isolationist cultural and ideological vainglory using the metaphor of military conquest as an irony-filled humbling device. Thus he acts out his supposed Washington-approved mission to “invade countries populated by Caucasians whose names I can mostly pronounce, take the things we need from them, and bring them back home to the United States of America”.
And so, Stars and Stripes in hand, Moore sets off to Europe to seek out booty with which, to paraphrase Borat, he will make benefit his glorious nation of America. Hopping from one country to another he looks at the Italian celebration of la dolce vita, the French dedication to food, the Finns' less-is-more approach to education, Slovenia’s free tertiary education system, the Portugese decriminalization of drug use and so on, all the while casting himself as a typical blinkered American, reeling in mock-disbelief that such things are possible without the financial and moral collapse ot their host nations.
Although Moore is, as he puts it, picking "the flowers not the weeds”, it’s a marvellously effective strategy, the focus on these different nation's achievements throwing into stark contrast the self-imposed shortcomings of American society. Indeed, it turns out that most of these ideas originally came from America, a country which as we know was founded on the notion of liberty and the dignity of the individual but which over centuries of self-centredness has lost its way. As Moore succinctly puts it, the difference is between the Americans’ “me” and the Europeans’ “we” points of view.
The film could have been shorter, the section dealing with German's response to the Holocaust feels a little too glib and that addressing women’s empowerment and the GFC in Iceland a little too superficial but in general Where To Invade Next is entertaining, thought-provoking and inspiring and the lessons are there not just for Americans.