It's 12:30 am, and I've just seen "Sicko."
I should announce before I say another word that I am clearly Michael Moore's target audience. I saw Roger and Me when it came out on video (I was probably about 13) and it was, for me, a revolution. I thought Bowling for Columbine was smart and pretty (if it's high praise for a woman it's high praise for a film). And F911 fed my soul and brought me laughter. I loved his short-lived anti-corporate TV Nation. And I thought that Stupid White Men was a great, concise little book, whose best, most profound point -- (implied in title), that if you think of who has done the most horrible things to you in your life, it's not an "angry urban youth," but an old white guy -- was well-said, phrased hilariously, and worth the cost of the book.
Now I know it is the vogue to distance oneself from Moore before praising him -- to give oneself some credibility: after all, he is a boogey man akin to Castro or Marx -- but I am really really really (really) unfashionable. And I really really have loved all of his films.
But this movie, this was something else. Something I haven't felt since Roger and Me: a revolution.
Now, I've seen Roger and Me again, since then, and while I still think it's a good film, it pales next to Moore's more recent work. But still, to my 13-year-old working-class eyes, that film spoke a kind of truth in a kind of way... it was nothing I had seen before. Sicko, to me, is like that. To my 32-year-old borrowed-my-way-up-to-the-next-highest-class-but-still-a-bit-of-a-debt-slave eyes, Sicko said something, and it said it in such a way...
No great work can be summed up, and the reviews I've read at Salon and the New York Times do a good enough job of conveying the scent if not flavor of the film. The movie makes you laugh, and cry, and laugh again. It makes you wonder and it makes you ashamed. It makes you want to move to France. There is a security video of a shoeless elderly women being pushed out of cab and left to wander down a street, disoriented -- she couldn't pay her hospital bill, so the hospital paid to get her as far as skid row, L.A., U.S.A. Another woman arrives the same way shortly after with broken ribs and a head injury. And when people in Canada, Britain, France, or Cuba are asked "how much did you pay to have your fingers re-attached?" or "to have that baby?" they wince in uncomprehending surprise. Pay? What monster would make a person pay for medical care?
And that is the question I left the theater with. "What monster?"
The film, though it made me weep with grief in many places, supplied plenty of laughs, not least of which was the mention in the credits of hook-a-canuck.com. However, I found most enlightening the revelation from my cousin Matt, who had previously seen the movie online, that a part had been cut, a part that told you what happened to so many of these interviewees by the time the film was finished... and many of them had died. "I guess they figured only the online audience was ready to hear that..." I said. You know, one of Moore's greatest talents in his films is he takes a story that is absolutely heartbreaking, and, after getting you to feel the tragedy, he gives you some relief -- he's like the drunken Irishman who's got good jokes at the wake -- but I guess telling us how many of these Americans we just met died from lack of care was the step too far. So see it in the theater, and let them live long in your memory... I doubt the DVD will leave it so shrouded in mystery.