In his first and most astonishing filmic effort, Michael Moore offers a beautifully narrated, collated and edited engagement with Flint, Michigan, over the course of the massive General Motors layoffs in the mid-80s - and, although the title and marketing suggest that the thrust of the film is Moore's attempt to secure an interview with GM chairman Roger Smith, this is little more than a way of parsing an extended portrait of the town and its citizens. Even then, this attempt doesn't ever approach the prank-aesthetic for which Moore has become notorious, just because it's so insatiably focussed, as Smith becomes the synecdoche for a whole panorama of private spaces from which Moore is forbidden entry, as well as a complex bureaucratic texture that gestures towards something repugnant about private property itself, and the socialist impulse that always lurks beneath Moore's emphasis on the right kind of capitalism. Similarly, Moore's taste for picaresque media-montage is kept to a minimum, and even then works wonderfully, partly because of the autobiographical element of the film, which it illustrates - Moore was raised in Flint, by a family employed by General Motors - but partly because Moore's aim ultimately seems to be to construe media-making as 'work', continuous with the dignified labour of his forbears, and an answer to a world in which physical demonstration and striking has become increasingly lethargic or problematic. It's this that allows the jaunty, upbeat tone to move beyond mere irony or cynicism into the perky optimism of a picket-line, an antidote to the media interface between management and workers - and its political corollary, the faltering unions - whose spokespeople are the most despicable in the film, drawing on a rhetoric of self-help that culminates with Thatcher's advice to "Cheer Up America" and the self-realization of Amway. This clarifies just how radical and refreshing Moore's conception of individualism is, based around a culture of workers rather than a culture of entrepreneurs, and disgusted with the moment at which laid-off workers are encouraged to start companies. It's also this fusion of film-making and work that allows Moore to fully convey the desecration of Flint without ever transforming it into a sublime or melancholy poverty-spectacle, thereby distancing himself from the retouristing of the town-as-simulacrum that occupies the last and most intriguing part of the film. It's the least theoretically ambitious of Moore's films - which is not to say that it isn't big-picture, but that it refrains from the conspiratorial metonymy of his later works - and burns with the most rage; an effective antidote to the "positive word-of-mouth" that constitutes Flint's last, desperate act of denial.