Saturday, August 07, 2004

Jerusalem Post : Polemical Cinema

by Emanuel Levy

Michael Moore, the director of the incendiary documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, is at heart a populist entertainer. Like every good comedian he knows that timing is everything.

He fought hard to get his agit-prop about President George W. Bush into the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, and he fought hard when Disney refused to allow its subsidiary, Miramax, to release the film in the US. Moore won on both fronts.

The movie is a huge hit. With US domestic grosses of over $100 million, Fahrenheit 9/11 is the most popular documentary in history. But Moore isn't basking in the sun. Realizing that Americans are watching more movies in their privacy than on the big screen, he's eager to get his documentary out on DVD in October, a month before the elections.
Since its premiere a number of questions have plagued the film. How rigorous and methodical is Fahrenheit 9/11 as a documentary? Can a single movie change people's minds when it comes to such crucial matters as voting? Is the documentary mostly preaching to the converted?

Taking a cue from Roger & Me, the 1989 documentary that put Moore on the map, the new work might have been titled George & Me, with Moore serving as straight man to Bush as a clown.

When the film opened, critical consensus held that the documentary was scathing and funny, but too diffuse and lacking in focus. Indeed, what begins as a look at 9/11 turns into an overall critique of the Bush administration's international and domestic policies.

Of Moore's documentaries, this is the broadest in scope, the nastiest in tone – and the most entertaining.

(click on the title for the whole article)


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