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Love him or hate him

Similarly to Marmite (foulness in a pot), something that can polarise the opinions of a nation or industry is the work of Michael Moore, the devilish American film director whose finger-in-the-eye productions now include Sicko, his dissection of the US healthcare system which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Love him or hate him
Similarly to Marmite (foulness in a pot), something that can polarise the opinions of a nation or industry is the work of Michael Moore, the devilish American film director whose finger-in-the-eye productions now include Sicko, his dissection of the US healthcare system which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Whether or not you feel that Moore, the man behind Farenheit 9/11, is the type of character who manages to present a non-partisan view of things, his films always seem to achieve in two areas: people pay to watch them and people then talk about them. A lot. As Cannes happened only a few weeks ago, however, we have but a mere peppering of initial reviews of Sicko on which to base our expectations.

This latest opus, to be screened later in 2007, apparently shows the US healthcare system as quite severely wanting. The good old NHS also makes an appearance, as Moore compares the US system to that in England, France, Canada and even Cuba, just to make sure any nervy American politicians won't sleep properly for a few weeks.

"Is he a journalist or an entertainer?" asks Cinematical, whose reporter also admits an inability to say whether Moore is a 'seeker of truth or socially absurd'. According to one reviewer however, Alissa Simon on Variety.com, this comparison with our NHS and the other systems is what has attracted the film's most ardent criticism. The NHS is reportedly painted in too rosy a picture, thereby angering those whose experience of our glorious free-at-the-point-of-need service (yes, but what exactly are we getting for nothing?) might not be up there with dinner at the Hotel de Paris on Casino Square in Monaco, with guests JK Rowling and Peter Kay (garlic bread?).

On his website (www.michaelmoore.com), Moore writes about some of the reaction: "The only negative word came from the Canadians. Two critics didn't like all the nice things I said about their health care system. Yes, Canadian health care has its flaws, but when I asked the two critics if they would exchange their health care cards for mine, they said 'No!'. Of course they wouldn't."

Actually, the Canadian reaction is more typical of a weird, inverted, acutely self-deprecating-led ironic defence that you find in the UK: "How dare you say how good we are! We're rubbish over here Moore, and don't you forget it!"

Still, all good dinner party conversation; do people still converse at dinner parties? Either way, Sicko will be unleashed soon, so if you're too busy being treated like royalty by our rosy NHS to see it, you'll be able to read a proper review of it in this useful publication in due course. Carry on.

Warning: you may get drunk
If you, like I used to, smoke, you'll be familiar with those black and white boxes the government has printed on cigarette packets these days: "these fags will do you a mischief", or something like it. But do they stop you reaching for the Zippo at lunchtime? Didn't think so. Then again, perhaps some of you have knocked the filthy habit on the head having read these in-your-face warnings. Maybe they helped bring you to your senses.

I quit years ago, mainly because I suffered a severe reaction to the amount of tax Brown was taking off me on every box I bought. And I was tired of stinking like the inside of Jeremy Clarkson's exhaust pipe. There used to be a sort of urban myth that "if everyone stopped smoking tomorrow, the NHS would collapse" because it relies on the tax generated through sales of fags.

Absolute nonsense. It would last a few days at least with no problems at all. And then collapse spectacularly.

Actually, that's not true either anymore, due to the amount we pay in tax to live in this safe and beautiful country. If you're feeling brave this weekend, take a moment and work out how much you pay a year in tax - everything, including stuff that doesn't come out of your income - and then consider how rich you'd be if you had to pay, say, a third less. I did, and now I feel like a smoke. Only I'm not going to give any more tax money to the government. I'd rather sit here getting narky, which would make a change wouldn't it?

This warning sign idea is also heading for drink. Next year, cans and bottles will display not only alcohol content level, as now, but will also include a note of warning: "know your limits!" and "drink responsibly!" have been suggested.

I'm sorry, but has the government ever met a young person? Today's yoof will only be spurred on by this. It's like writing, "Don't press this for God's sake on a big red buzzing button in the middle of a pub. Anyway I've said my bit. I'm off for a fag and a pint."

Carstairs is the pseudonym of our columnist, an industry insider, who takes a light-hearted look at the
pharmaceutical industry. If you want to be a Carstairs informant, please send any gossip or anecdotes, in absolute confidence, care of:

pm0297_carstairs.epsMr C.

Pharmaceutical Marketing

Vincent House, Vincent Lane

Dorking RH4 3JD

Or e-mail: carstairs@pmlive.com

Sicko (2007) - Michael Moore

8th June 2007

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