Fahrenheit 9/11 review by Tom Blain

Stirring, yet too guided

In Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore takes you on a journey of the Bush administration, from the election (that he argues Gore should have won and that minority votes were discarded), to the dreadful attack on the World Trade Center (that he argues Bushs administration ignored vitals clues of prior to the attacks), and then finally to War in Iraq (that he argues was more over controlling Iraqi oil and grabbing work contracts for Halliburton then U.S. protection). Along the way, Bush is portrayed quite convincingly as an egotistical, macho, idiotic, patsy slacker of a president whos main concern is making is his money and the money of his good ole boys in the millionaires club. Bush comes off looking like the guy who cheated off you in college and then got a better paying job because his daddy was rich and could squeeze him in somewhere on the highest rungs of the corporate ladder. The least of his concern is the lives of a few army enlists who come from humble backgrounds and trust that their president is making decisions to risk their lives based on the safety of the United States.

Moore presents images of the president on vacation (which apparently is quite often), putting his foot in his mouth, and making slow, idiotic decisions. We are given insight into his background in failing oil businesses that somehow get funded, and his family ties with rich oil tycoons from Saudi Arabi. Not the least of which includes a few siblings of Osama bin Laden. When the towers are attacked, we see a confused, scared President Bush. He lacks the quick, sharp reaction to help a country that is crumbling many miles away. Instead he just sits idly.

There are many more scenes along the way that dont paint a very flattering image of Bush. Most of it is recent news such as the phantom weapons of mass destruction and some of it may look like new news (if the only news you get comes from the major networks). I found myself saying a lot of times I remember seeing this type of Iraqi War footage on a public broadcasting documentary. In a way, its good that a lot of these images arent hidden from the American public. The most shocking thing for me was learning that of the few authorized planes flying over the U.S. following the attacks a great number of the passengers were bin Laden family members. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

Still, Fahrenheit 9/11s main flaw is also the main flaw of its creator, Michael Moore. It is so far left, that its pursuit of the truth will always have the stigma of being viewed as leftist propaganda. After seeing Fahrenheit 9/11, I went back to my film theory roots, planted by Tulane Universitys film department. I came across an article written by Linda Williams in a back issue of Film Quarterly (1993, Vol 46. Number 3) called Mirrors Without Memories in which she presents an argument for a new post-modern documentary. These new documentaries show influences from fictional films almost as much as they do with the non-fictional, and their elements of fictional films often have a strong affect (albeit less historical).

When viewing a documentary we have a nave faith in what is being shown to us. In Fahrenheit 9/11, we are given documentary footage (or as Williams would all it, cinema verite) of President Bush, the Iraq War, some World Trade Center aftermath, etc. The pictures, themselves, are true but what disrupts them is the spin Michael Moore puts on them. He puts non-diegetic music over the footage to gain emotional and comical effect. In one scene, he plays the theme to Bonanza over a montage of Bush clips to make him look like a silly, gun slinging cowboy. He even speeks over clips of Bush in a classroom, projecting what the President may have been thinking at the time of the attack. These types of thoughts portray Bush as a mobster who was double crossed by his gang members.

Moore even makes a few claims based off of weak evidence. His case studies against the Patriot Act, are testimonies of the infiltration of a highly non-militant peace group and the F.B.I. questioning of a man who was vocally anti-Bush in his local gymnasium. Both of these events have weak ties to the Patriot Act. Could they have happened before the Patriot Act? Absolutely. Was there a direct correlation to Patriot Act law that caused these events? Its unsure. I realize he is pushing two hours as it is, but if he wanted to make his point on how unconstitutional the Patriot Act is, a few more strong cases as well as deeper analysis of the Act would have been more appropriate.

While most of the actions Moore has taken enhance the anti-Bush theme of the film, they push the film further and further into fiction. With every personal jab at Bush, Moores agenda becomes certain and therefore his documentary becomes untrustworthy. A documentary can only be trusted if the creator of the film presents un-biased, un-compromising footage and allows the film viewer to make his own opinion. Because Moore chooses these fictional avenues, the question concerning post-film opinion is no longer Are you with our president or against him? as much as it is Are you with Moore, or against Moore? Moores own zealous filmmaking betrays the point he is trying to make.

Personally I am on Moores side, more then I am opposing it. I think the man has a belly full of fire and is a great modern day muckraker. His films will often have an immediate affect on you. Its tough to leave the theatre after seeing Fahrenheit 9/11 without feeling angry or upset at someone (either Bush for running the country poorly or Michael Moore for getting away with creating such a left-wing film). My advice to any potential film viewer is to go see it and view it with a grain of salt. Dont form your opinion until you have let it sink in for a day or two. Even then, keep talking about it to whomever and find out the real truth for yourself.




7 out of 10 Jackasses
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