At its 4 p.m. screening In Competition at the Palais, the movie occasioned an enthusiastic standing ovation — onlookers placed it at 15-20 minutes — punctuated by cries of "bravo!" The crowd included a phalanx of Endeavor agents, led by Ari Emmanuel, along with Mick Jagger, Daryl Hannah and a smattering of French stars and industry insiders.
"It was the longest standing ovation I've seen in over 25 years," said Harvey Weinstein, whose Miramax Films funded the project over the objections of parent company Walt Disney Co. and who has an exec producer credit on the film, along with Miramax's Agnes Mentre.
What Moore seems to be pioneering here is a reality film as an election-year device. The facts and arguments are no different than those one can glean from political commentary or recently published books on these subjects. Only the impact of film may prove greater than the printed word. So the real question is not how good a film is "Fahrenheit 9/11" — it is undoubtedly Moore's weakest — but will a film help to get a president fired?
Speaking at a public round table here, convened by Variety, Moore took issue with recent Disney statements that the studio had dropped the film a year ago. Disney money was flowing to the film until recently, he said. The decision to stop the film's July release, he continued, was made in late April when a "low-level executive" saw it and reported misgivings to Disney chief executive Michael Eisner. Miramax owners Bob and Harvey Weinstein are currently negotiating with Disney to buy the rights and release the picture independently or through a third party.
Yet Moore — the provocateur behind the Academy Award-winning Bowling for Columbine, which dissected American gun culture — applies his trademark satiric outrage to the Sept. 11 debate, packaging his anti-Bush message in a way that provokes both laughs and gasps.
Film critics were warm in praise of the controversial director who later called in a news conference for America to pull out of Iraq. "It is a such total mess. Their way of doing things has offended so many people," Moore said.
It was strident, passionate, sometimes outrageously manipulative and often bafflingly selective in its material, but Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 was a barnstorming anti-war/anti-Bush polemic tossed like an incendiary device into the crowded Cannes festival.
Does FAHRENHEIT 911 have a point of view? Yeah, of course. It would be one dull-ass movie if it bent over backwards to accommodate all sides, or debate the Bush spin tit for tat. Does that make it suspect? In the minds of some people determined to pin the label of liar, spinner or expedient exaggerator on Moore, it will.
Michael Moore is back, once again striking fear into the hearts of Republicans everywhere. After the almost shocking worldwide success of "Bowling for Columbine," which won an Academy Award and grossed millions of dollars more than anyone expected, Moore now lines up George W. Bush and Co. firmly in his crosshairs and fires pointblank. The result, "Fahrenheit 9/11," is a powerful, timely, and convincing assault on the family and friends who brought us the current mess in Iraq. This time around, Moore drops the zaniness and high entertainment value evident in "Bowling for Columbine," in favor of an elegiac approach that is less funny but ultimately, maybe, more politically effective. Only time will tell.