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Writing, Directing, and Producing Documentary Films and Videos

. "Fahrenheit 9/11"

Just another vehicle for the guy in the white house? Michael Moore's latest diatribe/revelation sometimes shows what a good actor George W. Bush is. Perhaps even more, what a good production team he has to support him with their version of what he's been causing to happen in Washington. This would be the alternate version.

The creator of "Bowling for Columbine," filmmaker, documentarian, propagandist, characterizer of facts, cynic, satirist and national treasure is the democrats' answer to Rush Limbaugh. Moore is the neutralizer of far right spin and he does it with considerable flair. Which comes from a sharp sense of satiric comedy and how to develop a payoff that will tickle the plain person's funnybone. What he does so well is to harness these natural gifts behind an activist's outcry against political manipulation and hidden agendas. His movies have impact because of his ability to make threads of evidence coherent and revealing.

Somebody doesn't like his film... and we know who it is. And, he's right not to. From his perspective, too much of him is revealed. As the target of the invective, this serially-failed oil businessman and his party shouldn't like the way Moore uses actual footage to embarrass and degrade his occupation of an unwon office. Not to worry, though. This is a party that will be quicker to spin than Spiderman. It's a knee jerk reaction. Doesn't Moore use a shot of GWB's comeback to his unexpected appearance in a crowd, "Get a real job?" This is like a republican hack's response to Kerry's pick of Edwards for VP, "The country doesn't need on-the-job training." Indeed.

Perhaps the most damning and undeniable evidence of ineptness that this film includes is the lingering moment after this court-appointed "war president" received word of the 9/11 attacks while reading a story about a goat for a classroom in Florida. The goat, however, wasn't the one on the page. It was the one sitting up in a chair with a blank expression on his face. This moment in recorded history has its effect -- it makes one wonder if there has ever been an occupier of the white house so ill prepared to protect America and deal with its enemies.

Moore is adept at presenting episodes that seems cut from disparate sources or have little tie to the message in mind. But there's always a capper that makes the meaning clear, sometimes with humor, sometimes with outright sadness or justified rage. Never-seen before footage carries its own impact, as does replaying some old moments that, for their new perspective, beomes invaluable.

There is, for example, a 1992 interview in which G.W. explains the advantages of being the president's son. "Access is power," the heir apparent drives home. Neither is Moore above using footage from commercial contexts to make his point. In a sequence about the Bin Laden family getaway after 9/11 with obvious approval from high, unnamed officials of government, the footage of planes departing are intercut with the fearless Jack Webb on "Dragnet" in a moment of the sort of tough interrogation the family was allowed to escape.

Moore's techniques include his own immersion into the scene, as in the oft seen ambush-interviews he conducted with your average senator on the streets of Washington, DC, asking them if they'd be willing to sign their sons and daughter up for duty in Iraq, followed by his use of an ice cream truck's loudspeaker to read the Patriot Act to all politicians within earshot of the streets around the capitol. Moore provides the emotional backbone of his piece with an extended sequence on a mother who grieves privately and publicly over the loss of her son in Iraq. Going back to a time when none of this happened, he regales us with a heartbreaking congressional moment when the African-American members of Congress express their rage and frustration that not one senator will back their effort to de-certify the court-decided election.

In all, there's no denying this is a tract and a diatribe perhaps more than it is a documentary. But it does document. And, who's to say documentaries can't be used for polemics, one-sided interpretations of real footage or a little muckracking? The history of the form is rife with such examples and one might also make a point of seeing the French take on the highly challenged blueblood, "The World According to Bush." Meanwhile, Moore's film may be attacked just for the reason that he's so good at it and for the fact that his humor, as with any good satirist, doesn't trivialize the issues.

We owe him for the shots that never made the evening news, the ones on the golf courses, the fishing boats, prior to the aired speeches, following the sound bytes. Who is there that will accuse Moore of making those up? Is there a CGI team in Moore's closet? Maybe we need an investigative team to uncover it. Can we task the CIA for that one? Let's see who gets the last payback.

{See also: "Uncovered: The War On Iraq") Click for full list of movie reviews

                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

Unspinning Fox News
Channel's Bill O'Reilly


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