THIS FIRE IS OUT OF CONTROL
So, like a lot of good little liberals, I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 today. Beyond my interest in the topic, I felt it was a good thing to send a message with my money that Americans do want to see films like this, that we do want more than one point of view (much the same way Christians did with Passion of the Christ, though I have a feeling they're even better at mobilizing). I have my problems with Moore, sure, and it irks me that Disney giving him the boot proved most people don't know what censorship actually is, but then most people don't know what irony is and my life is built on a solid base of contempt for humanity anyway, so what do I care?
Anyway, I was shocked to arrive 45 minutes before the first showing and see the crowd. I had anticipated a good turnout, but I was gambling that 11:45 on a Friday morning would be less crazy than later showings on the weekend. Portland is a rather liberal town and I expected quite a bit of the self-righteous jackass element to show up and make the screenings a free-for-all. Unfortunately, due to Fandango and apparently affluent white folk ready to pay an extra buck per ticket, about half the screenings were already sold out and I had to go to the second one. I'm happy to report, though, that there was only one loud idiot chiming in during the film, and she shut up as the movie got serious, before I could point out to her that I had paid for the film to give me commentary, not her. (Though, frankly, I enjoyed the irony of someone loudly declaring that Metallica were sell-outs at the end of the trailer for their forthcoming documentary before watching a man who makes for-profit movies about how corporations are bad and then goes to one of the worst to get funding.)
And I guess since I am already off track from the movie itself, I should note that other shenanigans were at work. About 20 minutes into the film, the screen went blank, the lights came on, and the most gentle fire alarm I've ever heard went off. A recorded voice actually asked us politely to leave! Everyone did, but as soon as we hit the street they were telling us to go back in. False alarm, or politically minded monkeywrenching?
The movie itself: I enjoyed Fahrenheit 9/11. Of the Michael Moore movies I've seen, it's the most well made. It's largely down to the fact that the character of Michael Moore that he cultivates for himself was largely absent. He was letting the facts drive the bus. There was a lot of information I was not aware of, and some of the personal stories told were emotionally devastating.
I would, however, quibble with Moore's technique. While I understand that filling the first quarter or so with his cheap jokes has the effect of lulling us into a sense of comfort before suckerpunching us with the hard stuff, and thus possibly increasing its effectiveness, I take issue with it for two reasons. (1) It suggests a lack of faith in the power of the footage and the facts he has that he needs to bring out the dancing monkey to get us on his side, and (2) it stacks the deck against him as far as changing the mind of anyone that is not already in his choir.
Now, I know when he gets serious, it's quite effective and hard for an intelligent person to discount--hell, I think he made a film that is comparable to Hearts and Minds when it comes to message and impact--but that's if they are still putting any stock in what he's saying. By showing the extremity of his Bush bias and making fun of the man so ruthlessly (and, yes, deservedly), he plays into the hands of the people who see him as a sensationalist muckraker. I could see a Republican audience listening to his voiceover about the last three years being a dream and puzzling over Bush's thought processes and deciding they are watching a film by a man with an axe to grind and tuning out, letting it color the real journalism that works its way into Fahrenheit 9/11 later. (Sidenote: This applies to Mel Gibson and Passion of the Christ, as well. Wouldn't your faith be better served by showing the good teachings of Jesus, rather than fetishizing his suffering?)
I'm normally not one to hold an artist responsible for an audience not getting it, but only if I feel the artist has considered how he or she is presenting the art. Were enough pieces given for the audience to put it together if they expend the required effort? In Moore's case, yes, there are the pieces there, but the way he tosses them out may seem top cavalier, and he might have considered that more if he really wanted to make a film that could sway people and inform them.
There are also a couple of moments of exploitation. Mainly, the grieving mother of a lost soldier when she breaks down in front of the White House. If Moore were the compassionate man he portrays himself as, wouldn't he walk into frame and give the woman some support, rather than letting her weep for an extended period of time? It's hard not to imagine him standing back, rubbing his unkempt beard, thinking, "Oh, this will play great in the sticks."
Still, go see Fahrenheit 9/11. It's worth it. It's enlightening, and certainly not as muddled as the message currently running on George Bush's website. Seriously, what is he trying to say with his "The Faces of Kerry's Democratic Party" campaign? Am I missing it because I agree with what everyone in the clip says? And what is the deal with the Hitler imagery? It's like he's comparing himself to Hitler. The MoveOn.org tag made me wonder if it was some kind of computer hacking, to be honest, just because it makes no sense. And if the Bush camp is attempting to compare Kerry to Hitler, then absolute shame on them.
Current Soundtrack: The Cure, live at Coachella 5-2-04