Cinema-Scene.com > Volume 6 > Number 26

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Director:
Michael Moore

Starring:
Michael Moore
George W. Bush

Release: 23 Jun. 04
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Fahrenheit 9/11

BY: DAVID PERRY

In an attempt for full disclosure, since Fahrenheit 9/11 seems to only bring out the worst in partisans who want to paint it as a divisive work that panders to only one mindset, I will admit that I opposed Gulf War II from the beginning. Having supported military action in Afghanistan, though bothered by some strategic decisions, Iím not a dove, but I fully comprehended the implications of the administrationís refusal to continue with United Nations weapons inspections (after having been pressured into them) and prepared for what I knew would be a long three years. From the moment Bushís unilateralism (a ďcoalitionĒ of nations mostly intent on continuing foreign aid from the U.S. does not give credence to the idea of multilateralism) made way into Iraq, I began my political activism against the president I had voted for in 2000 (with reservations that I now regret not following). I consider this such an egregious misuse of power, taking the nation backwards from decades of international growth since Vietnam, that I decided I would not support any politicians who voted for the war. Needless to say, my conservative economic beliefs (the sole reason for my Bush vote four years ago) and the aggravation I had over the war made me the quintessential party-switching Howard Dean supporter.

I donít normally let myself get this personal in a review, but I fear that not doing so would open me up to criticism of being a liberal extremist intent on espousing Michael Mooreís Holy Scripture. On the contrary, I donít particularly like the man -- just glance at my review of Bowling for Columbine. But we agree in our disdain for the war, though for completely different reasons: as he grasps for anything to downplay the reasons for war, my opposition is grounded in my derision for the administrationís unwillingness to take any diplomatic path possible -- including finishing the weapons inspections -- before preparing to put American soldiers on the line. Our form of protest do meet in one way, Moore and I see this as the molestation of the American military, putting the servicemen and -women in danger without taking precautions that might have saved 900 American lives.

My main problem with Moore has always been his blowhard persona caped by a sanctimonious faÁade. The exploitive way he dealt with Bowling for Columbine, a film that makes great points but is unable to fully commit to them out of acquiescence for the self-serving poseur behind the camera (though, more often than not, in front of the camera so he can show the viewers just how much he cares), was disappointing for me. I wanted a pointed, fully realized retort to my feelings on gun control. Instead, I only felt that there was some guy trying to hock his books and movies that certainly felt emotional about the subject but didnít know how to convey it without being unnecessarily false.

But thatís not the case with Fahrenheit 9/11 because Moore seems more secure with what he means to say than before. Built largely on pointed interviews (I hereby ask the Academy to consider John Conyers for Best Supporting Actor this year) and found footage, the first half of the film is mostly conspiracy theory. I donít believe half of what he says, myself long demystified by the Parallax-like enigma connected to Bush et al. However, I do appreciate the view he gives. No matter how many holes I may consider these theories to have, I accept them as an interesting view into the minds of some within the anti-war movement (believe me, we are far from uniform). Itís the same reason that I pay attention to Anne Coulter, Bill OíReilly, and Randi Rhodes: weíve got to keep up with the crazies before they start to make sense.

My deep, emotional connection of Fahrenheit 9/11 isnít built in this first half, where Iím more entertained by his contortions as well as the pointed but innocuous findings. Where I become passionate about this film is in the second half, where Moore documents the product of the war: the Iraqi collateral damage, the disillusioned world impression of the U.S., and the harming of the American youth fighting there. Some have said heís overly critical of the troops, but Moore is not trying to demonize the soldiers but instead comment on what this war has done to them. Whether itís mental or physical damage, the price of war has been their burden.

The centerpiece of this section is a series of interviews with Lila Lipscomb, a Flint, Michigan, mother who lost her son in Iraq. Even when Moore uses her at the worst moment, not understanding the proper time to stop filming, the implications of the proceeding moments (as a woman castigates her for weeping over her dead son, saying that the whole filmed ordeal must be fake) have an impact that deals a greater blow to the Bush war and those who support it than any of the Oliver Stone posturing of the first half.

I donít consider Fahrenheit 9/11 to be a perfect film, but it has an impact for this viewer that cannot be underestimated. Iíve seen it twice in two different (admittedly liberal) cities, and I was intrigued by the reactions. Where New Yorkers applaud with every condemnation of the Bush administration, the Bostonians are almost completely quiet except for the occasional sniffles. They share a similar response: the command of the work is immeasurable for an audience willing to accept it as a barometer of the flaws of the administrationís actions in Iraq. Audiences who believe fully that the human cost of the war is acceptable for the headway GWII has made in creating a safer world, wonít likely accept Mooreís arguments because minds have been made up. Perhaps Moore is speaking to the pulpit, but the pulpit is mighty enthusiastic.

Moore begins his film with the dream of a different November 2000, where Al Gore celebrates his Florida victory and his impending presidency. Itís that same kind of fantasy that takes over me as I think about the state we now inhabit. In 1973, after being sworn into office following the resignation of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford said ďMy fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.Ē I dream that John Kerry has similar words for the nation upon inauguration, and I deeply hope that Fahrenheit 9/11, flaws and all, will bring that speech one step closer to reality
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©2004, David Perry, Cinema-Scene.com, 25 June 2004