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The Duke Reviews Fahrenheit 9/11

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“You mean he’s gonna talk about the actual FILM? Well that’s just downright insanity, is what.”

As far as The Cinema is concerned, 2004 has been one of the most interesting years in recent memory, is what The Duke has deduced via detailed analysis, critique and pondering with regards The Popular Motherfucking Culture.

Despite the Spider-Men and Punishers and what-not, the most anticipated, most debated films of the year thus far have not been CGI extravaganzas or escapist tomfoolery, but have in fact been a foreign-language exploitation gore-flick about a fella gets whipped, hammered, tortured for two hours, and a political documentary.

This is nigh on unprecedented, is what.

Hellboy came and went, Roland Emmerich went to great lengths to destroy various landmarks in The Snow What Killed The World, and yet, the flick everyone wants to see, the only one anyone seems to have an opinion on right now, is a film about The President starring George W Bush.

Except, the hilarious thing is, despite the number of articles, blog entries, debates in forums about Fahrenheit 9/11, a fella would be hard pressed to find anything worthwhile with regards the quality of the piece as a slice of celluloid.

All anyone wants to yack about is how much of lying motherfucker that Michael Moore may or may not be, and it’s all a load of the horseshit, don’t you know, and how can you say it’s a documentary you communist left-wing bodysnatcher?

Is it any good? Who the fuck knows?

So let The Duke be the first to offer a review of the film what does just that; talks about the film.

But first, there’s a little bit of etiquette with regards The Writings Concerning Fahrenheit 9/11 that I feel it would be uncouth not to oblige.

When folks went about reviewing The Passion, they had to waste the first two paragraphs telling every motherfucker about every aspect of any theological musings they had ever engaged in. Folks wanted to know just what kind of character you might be, before they wanted to hear what you had to say about Mad Max Beyond Gethsemane. Why did you like this flick, huh? Was it because you enjoyed it on an aesthetic level, or because you were some kind of anti-Semitic motherfucker with a hard-on for the fundamentalists?

Same thing applies to any yacking about Michael Moore’s new picture. Folks wanna know who you vote for, why you vote for them, what your thoughts on the political situation in Sudan might be, who the hell you think you are anyroad?

Curiously, no one wants this kind of detailed autobiographical introduction to a review of Barbershop 2.

So what The Duke will tell you is that he is something of a fan of this Michael Moore chancer, and found his two previous feature documentaries to be highly entertaining, thought-provoking works, although I have yet to see Canadian Bacon, what took a fictional approach to the camera-pointing, by way of being a comedy-drama.

I lean to the left, to which end I have been a member of various political parties, until I had to leave on account of fucked-up personal shenanigans that some of you fine folks will know about, and some won’t.

So there you go. Now, The Duke takes the unprecedented step of discussing Fahrenheit 9/11 as a product of popular motherfucking culture.

First off, it’s a better film than Bowling For Columbine, and is probably just as good as Roger And Me. It shares the style of the opening ten minutes of the latter, and the lack of direction in the second half that so blighted the former.

Not that there’s any jaunts around Canada to make a point about something he forgets about ten minutes later, it’s just that the focus seems to get awful blurred now and again, with the ever-swelling ambition threatening to derail the whole damn thing.

Michael wants to tell you about the president is a fool, but he also wants to tell you about the war is a shambles, and also some stuff about unemployment, and still find time for a few satirical set-pieces, even though, as a whole, it’s much less of a film about “Michael Moore” than the previous efforts. Indeed, barring a couple seconds of archive footage, Moore doesn’t even show up till 40 minutes into the thing.

Basically, nothing F*9/11 concerns itself with will be any great surprise to anyone who read the first few chapters of Stupid White Men or Dude, Where’s My Country? Moore presents to us a portrait of George W Bush as a bumbling cipher, a man who has very little say on anything of any import, being merely the plaything for any number of corporate enterprises he is affiliated with. Moore’s vision of George W Bush is as a man who has no idea of the enormity of his decisions, a man who sees no further than the numbers flashing across the stock-market reports on CNN.

This is all pretty much common knowledge nowadays, when every motherfucker on the planet wants to devote web-pages and books and albums to how incompetent and villainous and so on this presidential hack might be.

What makes it all seem fresh, vital, however, is the manner in which it is presented.

The first ten minutes of the film are a tour de force of montage editing. Sergei Eisenstein, that other left-wing film-crafter with a flair for the cutting and pasting, is no doubt looking down on Moore’s work here and smiling a little, although probably thinking there should be more stone lions, really. A few more boats wouldn’t go amiss, Michael, you lazy motherfucker.

However visceral this opening salvo may be, though, it is immediately kicked in the balls by Moore’s reliance on mawkish, patronising sentimentality. The footage he chooses for to illustrate the events of September 11 2001 is incredibly powerful, but the manner in which he utilises it renders it fairly impotent, something unthinkable to anyone who sat staring at that news-coverage a few years back. Commendably, he doesn’t show the towers at all, but what he does show, ie, grieving onlookers, bemused, weeping pedestrians, he cripples with slow-motion and a cloyingly sentimental musical score. Compare this to the footage of the columbine shooting in his last film. The CCTV footage scarring the screen with ghostly predators as anguished emergency phone calls were relayed on the soundtrack made for a deeply unsettling and incredibly powerful experience. I mean no disrespect or offence to anyone by the following statement, but the representation of 9/11 in Moore’s film is laughable. Also, the inter-cutting of Bush reading to a roomful of primary school children as the events in New York unfold is intended to evoke revulsion, but the sight of this obviously bewildered individual actually goes someway to creating a sense of pity.

Which is a pretty big flaw, all being told.

It’s not the only flaw, for sure. At times, there is a decidedly unpleasant hint of racism and xenophobia running through the proceedings, most evident in the round-up of coalition countries half-way in, which sees fit to represent each nation via a second long glimpse of a cultural stereotype. For the Netherlands we get a bloke smoking pot. For Morocco we get a bunch of monkeys sitting at a table. It’s fairly fucking offensive, is what.

Also, the use of death, atrocity, and grieving parents to make a point isn’t that far removed from Bush’s recent utilisation of 9/11 as a campaign tool. And let’s not forget this is first and foremost a campaign tool. It’s just not too sure who it wants to campaign for.

As pointed out in an article in this month’s Sight And Sound, Moore shoots himself in the foot somewhat in his portrayal of the Democrats. He wants for all the world for Bush to be voted out of office, yet does he really expect you to vote for those imbeciles who support his lunacy? It’s a valid point to be making, that the two primary parties are virtually indistinguishable, but if I was an American citizen, after watching this I think I would be fairly certain that I wasn’t gonna be voting Republican, but I sure as fuck wouldn’t fling a vote at those other sons a bitches neither.

So what, really, does the film hope to gain? It exposes a wealth of stunningly immoral corruptions and foibles on behalf of Bush, but it’s highly unlikely that anyone who was going to vote for him anyway will be all that convinced. You only have to do a quick search on Google to see just how many people are out to discredit Moore with the vehemence he puts into discrediting the administration, and there are already sites buzzing with how much of a concocted barrel of dung this all is. As a piece of political filmmaking, it’s incendiary. As a political tool, I don’t know how effective it’ll be.

As I said earlier, the editing in this thing is amazing. Moore and his team have gone all out in securing every slice of relevant footage, whilst also finding time to include shots from, amongst many others, Mario Bava’s Mask Of Satan and the original Dragnet TV show. Maybe he should have used the Dragnet film with Tom Hanks and Dan Akroyd. Maybe folks won’t listen to reason, but I’m sure they’d listen to Tom Hanks. Did you see him in Joe Versus The Volcano? Who wouldn’t listen to every word that charming motherfucker saw fit to yack?

Ultimately, though, Moore’s finest trick is taking the tools used in Republican politics and using them for his own ends. The politics of emotion, of outrage, of gut feeling over intellectual consideration, these things have been the secret weapons of The Right since as long as they’ve realised the media was their closest ally. Here, Moore uses those self same techniques to attack their primary exponents. If a point can’t be made via the unveiling of statistics and figures, then he’s gonna make it by showing a child screaming as doctors stitch a wound in its scalp, or having a mother weeping as she reads the final letter written by her deceased son, killed in Iraq.

Really, though, how incendiary can a film be these days? I mean, shit, there’ve been radical documentary flicks for as long as anyone cares to remember, from Triumph Of The Will to that Vietnamese number what suggested LBJ was born of a cow. The difference, perhaps, is that F*9/11 is not being marketed as a propaganda film, which it certainly is. It’s not even being marketed as a documentary. It’s being marketed as an “event picture”. It’s one of those things you have to see, and just as The Passion filled seats with people who would otherwise puke their guts up at the sight of a subtitle, so Fahrenheit 9/11 will find an audience beyond the regular crowd for the documentary features, a crowd which is, admittedly, growing ever larger.

Moore needs to tighten the reigns a little, and Fahrenheit 9/11 would be twice the film at half the length, but in all other respects he is prodigiously talented. Fahrenheit 9/11 incorporates elements of journalism, satire, political farce and conspiracy theory, adds a wallop of melodrama and a fair dollop of the detective drama. It’s a hybrid picture, a film as content at jumping from genre to genre as that film about Uma Thurman kills folks in a night-club.

It’s a film that has got people openly debating things like editing and journalistic ethics. For all the box office receipts, I can’t remember a single motherfucker talking about the editing when they came out of Titanic.

Thanks Michael Moore.

The Duke resides at Mondo Irlando

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  • Lono, thank you!
    I searched through your blog, but couldn’t find the article in question. The blog is iamcorrect, yeah? But praise the lrod, since what i found was enough to keep me occupied for longer than is socially acceptable. you are a fantastic writer, and the “from the road” entries were especially wonderful. Thank you.

  • Duke,

    I just saw the movie tonight, and am an admitted huge fan of Moore’s work… so of course I enjoyed it. One thing I thought was kinda tacky, and as a result should have been the first thing the right wingers charged on is this: he used pictures of dead babies and wounded civilians to make a point about this war. That was dumb… that stuff happens with EVERY war and it is something nobody wants or strives for. Bush has done more than enough evil shit against America to further his agenda of corporate greed and wealth that we don’t need to be patronized to get the message. Geesh, that was well stated on my behalf… perhaps I should shit out a full piece on the movie myself. nah… too many already. I always enjoy your writing, and there is a huge homage to you in a very recent piece I wrote. I just can’t remember which one… probably the latest Dead piece.

  • Chris, thanks for the kind words! I think the comparison between this and Mel’s exploitation flick is a worthwhile one, and thanks for confirming it.
    I’ll probably get a peek at canadian bacon sometime in the future, but i’ve heard many bad things, and you’ve just added to it lol.
    But who knows? Maybe The Duke will think it’s a damn masterpiece or something. Wouldn’t be the first instance of such!

  • Chris Kent

    Great work El Senor Duke. I appreciated your contrast between 911 and The Passion and a critique of the filmmaking prowess in addition to the politics. One of my favorite posts of yours.

    I’ve seen Canadian Bacon. Very poor, and established Moore had better keep his job in the documentary arena…..