Monday, July 12, 2004

controversy... what controversy?

Went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 at last today, and thought it was absolutely magnificent; many many times better than Bowling For Columbine and really moving in places, although also really infuriating. I keep reading, mind, that people object to Moore's brand of 'propaganda' but I don't mean that is what infuriates; rather the cheerful, bloody and smug ignorance of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice collective. If at times the fratboy Bush is almost likeable on the Golf course he is never anything but a disgrace elsewhere; his blase attitude just stunning. At one point, pressed on where Bin Laden is he remarks,

"And he's just, he's, he's a, he's a person who's now been marginalized, so, I, I don't know where he is, nor... and I just don't spend that much time on it, Ellie, to be honest with ya"

Um. Right.

Elsewhere, Moore notes,

"While Bush was busy taking care of his base and professing his love for our troops, he proposed cutting combat soldiers pay by 33% and assistance to their families by 60%. He opposed giving veterans a billion dollars more in health care benefits, and he supported closing veteran hospitals. He tried to double the prescription drug costs for veterans and opposed full benefits for part-time reservists. And when Staff Seargeant Brett Petriken from Flint was killed in Iraq on May 26th, the army sent his last paycheck to his family, but they docked him for the last five days of the month he didn't work, because he was dead."

Where this film succeeds is where Bowling for Columbine failed. This time round, Moore has put together a riveting and cogent narrative. Having started with the phoney election, Bush's Saudi links and the 'war' in Afghanistan (he notes that only 11,000 ground troops were sent in, and it was two months before they reached Bin Laden's base) it seems natural that the film will turn its attention to Iraq. Yet Moore pulls away and begins to talk about the culture of fear in America (something he didn't quite iron out in his last film), and - in the film's best sequence - about poverty in the States, about how the army represents the best option for the disenfranchised of, say, (and here Moore finally shambles into view) his beloved Flint, Michigan. The film begins to wander...

But does it? Moore's structure is genius; when he moves, finally, on to Iraq he has done something documentary makers the world over would kill to do - he provides a marvellous contextual backdrop to the film's thesis: the young men and women of America who enlist into our armies (he says) are willing to fight and die for their country. They fight so we don't have to. They die so we don't have to. The only thing they ask of us is that we only send them into harm's way when it absolutely necessary.

The people he finds, listens to and interviews are ordinary Americans. Yes, he knows how to tug the heartstrings (his use of Arvo Part's 'Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten' as we see footage of 9/11 is wrenching, with that wonderful, chiming bell resonating through the cinema) but the film is not carried by the weight of his argument, or the bias of it. It is carried by the stories he tells. His surprisingly masterful direction is the icing on the cake.

A really super film, and it made me as angry as hell.

2 comments:

BB said...

Came across that new book that attacks Moore in the bookshop yesterday. Thought it was quite amusing, and shows how off-the-plot they are, that he was described as "far left" ...

jonathan said...

Was that 'Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man'? I didn't know it was out, but I'd heard about it for some time. It's by the creators of http://www.moorewatch.com, a website I happily provide without a hyperlink (oxygen of publicity, and all that). Having said that, moorewatch and the countless other anti-liberal sites in America actually seem to be doing a damn good job of giving Mike all the publicity he wants. I'm particularly grateful to Redlinerants, who have now completed their transcript of the film. And that's supposed to put me off??? Hey, I've got a spare two hours this evening - I'll read it again! Great.