- by Jeff Beck
Roger & Me: Michael Moore's Incredible Debut (Blu-ray)
Michael Moore, no doubt the most popular documentarian of the last 25 years, has brought us some incredible works over the past two and a half decades, including “Fahrenheit 9/11,” his exploration of the Bush Administration and how the 9/11 attacks affected the US, “Sicko,” an intriguing argument for socialized health care, and “Bowling for Columbine,” his Oscar-winning look at the Columbine shootings. However, before all of these came his first documentary entitled “Roger & Me,” a scathing look at General Motors and the effect of massive layoffs on his hometown of Flint, Michigan.
Moore begins the film by telling us a little about his childhood, including how his father used to work for GM, but the film soon becomes about his quest to find GM Chairman Roger Smith, the man responsible for the thousands of layoffs from the company. It doesn’t take long to see the disastrous effects that the layoffs have upon the town: a large increase in evictions and crime, shops closing down, and parts of the city becoming like an abandoned ghost town. With all that’s happened, Moore’s one wish is to bring Smith to Flint so that he can see just what his greedy decisions have done to a town that was once incredibly prosperous.
There’s nobody out there that can make a documentary quite the way Michael Moore can, an ability that he demonstrated right from the start with his outstanding debut film “Roger & Me.” When some people think of documentaries, they think of a combination of talking heads and archival footage, and while Moore does use both, he still goes a step further and takes a hands-on approach to his subject. In many ways, he’s like an investigative reporter who’s trying to get to the root of the problem, whether it’s health care, guns, capitalism, or, as we see here, the devastation of his hometown. Not content to do just a few interviews with his subjects, he goes out and about, trying to hunt down the elusive Smith in an attempt to get answers.
However, along the way, he paints a deeply-impactful portrait of this town that has been hit by hard times, but even then, in a way it becomes darkly comical as the city spends millions of dollars in a disastrous attempt to restore tourism, resulting in a rec center and an auto-related theme park that fail big time due to a lack of visitors. This ends up being around the same time that Flint was named the worst place to live in America by a certain magazine, inciting a massive burning of the publication by the citizens, one of which tries desperately to name a few of the good things they have left (a PGA tour event, an air show, etc.). All of this combines into a highly entertaining, deeply informative, and wickedly amusing look at this heartbreaking situation. It’s the film that put Michael Moore on the map, and it’s not hard at all to see why.
“Roger & Me” arrives on Blu-ray for its 25th anniversary in a fantastic 1.85:1, 1080p High Definition transfer. The film is a combination of home movies, archival footage, interviews, and footage shot on location, but it all looks absolutely amazing, featuring a sharp, crisp picture without any hint of fuzziness. The 2M Dolby Digital Audio has also been given excellent treatment, presenting everything from the on-location interviews to Moore’s voiceovers in top-notch quality. Overall, the film looks and sounds great, leaving no room for complaint.
Commentary by Michael Moore: A fascinating commentary track that has Moore taking you through the making of the film, as well as adding insights into the events. Definitely worth listening to.
“Roger & Me” remains as poignant a documentary today as it was 25 years ago. Michael Moore’s film is intelligent, funny, in-depth, and touching, all executed with a gripping hands-on approach to the material that helps engage the audience more than you’re standard talking heads documentary. It was one hell of a debut for the filmmaker, and now with the film celebrating its 25th anniversary, there’s no better time to revisit it than with the release of this excellent new Blu-ray edition.
Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.
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