30 June 2004

Review: Fahrenheit 9/11 (5/5)

Tarantino said that Fahrenheit won the Palm d'Or at Cannes because simply it was the best film. It's easy to scoff when the Hollywood elite praise a liberal documentary screened in a French town--no one would disagree that it was a sympathetic audience. However, Tarantino may very well have been right. Fahrenheit 9/11 was a solid documentary with a strong sense of form and pacing. At almost two hours, it needs a skilled hand to hold it together, and I honestly didn't expect Moore to succeed as well as he did.

(The high marks aren't in any way from disparate expectations but from admiration of his successful execution.)

Moore not only structured the film well but also somehow captured, unearthed, and edited a volume of short scenes that acted as building blocks to the whole. These vignettes--of Marines targeting the poor for recruitment, of a cookie-loving protest group infiltrated by the police, of a mother reading her dead son's indictment of Bush's war--provide an emotional pulse and act as a backdrop to the larger themes: Bush lost the 2000 election, Bush's ties to Bin Laden money and oil allowed him to ignore terrorist threats, government-linked corporate interests benefit from both the military presence and political upheaval of the war. The movie presents a volume of facts and connects them to an insidious conclusion. Is it the correct conclusion? Well, Moore's job was to make the coherent argument, ours as a society is to find any flaws.

A point to think about: this film is being called too biased to be a documentary, and yet it provides more facts and documentation than most documentaries I've seen. The bias is there, but it's backed up and has the transparency that, Moore argues, our government is missing.

Prior to me seeing the film, many people I spoke with, moderates included, had no interest in going to this movie. Even a more liberal friend who saw Fahrenheit 9/11 gushed at first but then quickly became sheepish about the movie as if he felt others would think a charlatan duped him. America often trades in hyperbole and melodrama even if it has no substance. Why the sudden conscience when the hyperbole has a factual basis? There are many arguments to be made, but arguing against style means you're too easily ignoring content.

I'm an extremely sympathetic audience, but I'm also a critical viewer. The only problem I had with the film was a few scenes with Bush acting the dope and Moore editing banjo music in the background. They were few, and at two hours he can have his fun. Often such emotional bubblegum was needed to clear your head. However, I was surprised to enjoy some of his archetypal Michael Moore scenes where he harasses people by putting them in absurd situations. There were only a few, but they too served the overall film well.

Prior to viewing, I had thought that Fahrenheit 9/11 would suffer in comparison to Control Room. Having seen both, I realize that they are two very different films, and neither suffers when compared to the other.

It deserves to continue to pack the theaters.


-> Rotten Tomatoes

[ posted by sstrader on 30 June 2004 at 9:28:11 PM in Cinema ]