For the converted--meaning, of course, those filmgoers fed up with President Bush and the war in Iraq--Fahrenheit 9/11, the vigorously publicized latest cine-rant from the Oscar-winning Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine) will be an entertaining, often enlightening but uneven two hours in theatres.
As nearly everyone who can read knows, Moore, up to his usual highly amusing, indulgent and bulldozing tricks, takes aim at President Bush, his family and inner circle of business-minded colleagues. Among many things, Bush is nailed for paying more attention to vacations than terrorist threats during his first eight months in office, just prior to 9/11. Moore is most effective at showing how mutual business interests have made the Bush family and cronies like Dick Cheney especially cozy with the Saudis and, especially, the bin Laden family. Thanks to Bush, dozens in the bin Laden clan were allowed to flee the U.S. only days after 9/11.
And there is also the matter of the Carlyle Group, an international investment firm referenced in the film that has ties to both families. (Ironically, only days before Fahrenheit was released, Carlyle was announced as one of the new investors in the Loews circuit, which provided one of the two theatres in which the film premiered prior to its rollout.)
Of course, Moore is equally harsh on Bush's war in Iraq. The latter part of the film exposes, among other things, the foolishness and brutality of that effort and the ways in which the armed services poach among the country's most disenfranchised for their manpower. To drive home his point, Moore offers hideous scenes of gore and a heart-wrenching shot of an elderly Iraqi woman anguishing over the loss of family members, then lashing out scarily and calling for vengence against the America that is responsible for the tragedy.
As in Roger and Me, Moore returns to his hometown of Flint, Michigan. Here he finds Lila Lipscomb, a working-class mother who, always a proud American and true patriot, now must deal with the loss of her son in Iraq. She doesn't deal with it very well. In focusing on Lipscomb, Moore again wants to show his true everyman colors, which makes Fahrenheit 9/11 as much about Moore himself as about his ideology and beliefs.
After he learns that just about every congressman who voted for the harsh Patriot Act hadn't even read the act, Moore, armed with a loudspeaker, travels around in a truck near D.C.'s government buildings explaining it.
And there are more familiar Moore tricks. As evidenced in both Roger and Me and Columbine, he's a fearless practitioner of the amusing and frankly ballsy ambushing of subjects. Here, the filmmaker, having learned that only one legislator has an offspring in the service, accosts several Washington lawmen with a clipboard and pen in an attempt to get them to sign away their sons or daughters to the military.
But, especially in Fahrenheit, Moore applies the tricks of cinema to make his points. Thus, an abundance of montages and slo-mo shots show Bush at his wimpiest, and our presence in Iraq at its worst.
When all is said and done, Moore's film effectively satisfies the anti-Bush masses and, thanks to the Miramax-like marketing attack, the film will reach that angry core. The test of a great film is to win over the opposing camp, which is why many consider Leni Riefenstahl's The Triumph of the Will art and many others may consider Fahrenheit 9/11 quirky and amusing craft.
Portrait of a struggling, stubborn folksinger in 1961 New York is a Coen Brothers triumph, and one of the year’s best films. More »
» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.
ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION
Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.
Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.