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June 27, 2004 - Bob Patterson Reviews Michael Moore's New Film...

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Fahrenheit 9/11

Rated R

Review by Bob Patterson


The website for this film is here.


All the efforts to disrupt and discredit the distribution of this film had led this columnist and voter (who has reviewed over 200 film for a different online magazine) to expect something quite different than what Michael Moore has delivered.


This film shows some archival footage with narration by Moore that covers material that most well informed adults (from both the Republican and Democratic parties) should already know.


After quickly establishing that it took some legal hassles over vote counts in Florida for the 43 President to be certified and sworn in, Moore covers the events of September 11, 2001.


Then he goes over the fact that the Bush family has had and continues to have business dealings with the Saudi Arabian royal family.  Next, he reminds his audience that the vice-president was previously an executive with Halliburton.


Moore, who has extensive experience as a documentary filmmaker, does inject an opinion into the segment concerning the expulsion of the Taliban from Afghanistan when he states that the failure to capture Osama bin Laden was inept.  Shouldn’t he, as a journalist, have used a recognized authority on military operations to make such an assessment of that rather arcane aspect of warfare?


He uses some footage of President Bush and members of his administration explaining that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, which will be familiar to regular viewers of the Sunday political talk shows and the evening news programs. 


He and his camera crew focuses on a mother from Flint Michigan and watch her support for the war ebb when she learns her son has died in Iraq.


After some attempts to ask members of Congress about the possibility that they might let Moore talk to their children about volunteering for military service in Iraq, he abandons that as an unsuccessful endeavor.


Moore uses ironic juxtaposition of material for maximum dramatic effect.  He will follow references to the coalition by some material that names smaller participants with no formidable military expertise.  He follows the “Bring it on!” sound byte with images of the carnage and human suffering that the conflict produced.


The people who petitioned their neighborhood theaters to forestall the showing of this film will never be able to ascertain if they inadvertently increased the business this documentary film is generating, or not.  Now, it seems to be a leading contender for next year’s Oscar for best feature length documentary film. 


Pioneer documentary film maker Leni Riefenstahl was noted for her tendency to glorify the subject of her films and her documentary Triumph of the Will is regarded as the greatest propaganda film of all time (according to Leonard Maltin’s 1998 Movie & Video Guide page 1406).  Moore, who has won one previous Oscar in the feature length documentary category, has brought renewed interest to the field and the annual competition for the documentary Oscars, but he will probably be perceived as having an adversarial relationship with the subject of this documentary film.


If Moore were a scurrilous, rumor monger indulging in advocacy propagandizing, as some conservative talk show hosts infer, wouldn’t he have included some material making reference to: the Union Banking Corporation (especially the New York Herald Tribune’s [did it run on July 31, 1941 or 1942?] page one article about Fritz Thyssen), where the Arbusto Energy (which is mentioned in passing) company ended it’s business life evolution, what role Spectrum 7 played in the history of the Middle East, and perhaps asking when and where the president received his training to qualify as an F-102 pilot? 


It seems quite unlikely that any pro-Bush enthusiast will inadvertently wander into this film and experience a St. Paul like change of opinion.  Most Democrats who pay to see this film will be reinforced in their preexisting convictions. 


Critical evaluation of this film on a scale ranging from one (all copies should be destroyed as a humanitarian gesture) to ten (sure to be acclaimed as an all time great on: the reviewer’s personal list, business wise, or by repeated critical consensus), on such a system, earns it a seven (which indicates it will, most likely, end up on over 100 of the newspaper film reviewers “Top Ten” lists at the end of this year.)


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
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