Everyone will have their own views about the accuracy or otherwise of Michael Moore’s views about President Bush (he no like) or the war in Iraq in his latest film Fahrenheit 9/11. There’s been no end of discussion in the media about this or that fact which Moore has apparently skewed or misrepresented. Certainly his picture of happy Iraqis prior to the US-led invasion is pretty questionable. But this is polemic as entertainment. I don’t think even Moore would see it otherwise.
Fahrenheit 9/11 is angry and urgent and has a point of view, which it makes persistently if not entirely consistently. As film it works better than Moore’s last, the anti-gun tirade Bowling For Columbine. Moore is less in this latest film, less the intrusive personality that he was in Columbine where his interviews were often cringe-making due to their obvious manipulations.
The most compelling aspect of Fahrenheit 9/11 is the extraordinary range of archival film which is used to bring Moore’s points home, and it does this brilliantly. Much of it comes as no surprise, such as the footage of a blank-faced George Bush in a Florida classroom being told that a second plane has just hit the twin towers. However, it is the cumulative effect which packs the punch. As shot after shot of George W. Bush’s empty-eyed gaze unfolds throughout the film, the more disturbed you become.
There are also some aspects to the film-making that involve a welcome kind of tact. For instance, when Moore deals with the crash of those two planes into the twin towers, at no stage does he actually show that oft-repeated footage. Sure, he does drift into American sentimentality at this point but what a relief not to see those towers crumble for the umpteenth time!
The film is also quite funny in parts. Most of the jokes are cheap shots, however. Moore doesn’t really need to make the jokes as the point is made without them.
In summary, the film should make any viewer ask some tough questions about how close the Bush family is to Saudi oil connections, about the conduct of the last US presidential elections, about who is actually doing the fighting for the USA (yep, the poor, the unemployed, blacks) and about why wars are being fought (Moore’s answer is money). Any film that makes people question has to be a contribution to public debate. You might also want to query the ways media can be manipulated, including how Michael Moore does it. It’s unsubtle, angry, moving, irritating, questionable, funny and necessary.