by guest reviewer Winston Smith
"Last night to the flicks. All war films. Audience much amused by shots of a great huge fat man trying to stick one on George W Bush..."
Fahrenheit 9/11 is a rare beast - a documentary that is, in the most part, stimulating. Audience participation is encouraged, with great cries of "wanker!" from the proles when Tony Blair appears, and hoots of laughter at the wit and wisdom of the President of the United States.
"I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you." [brings up his golf club] "Now, watch this drive."
F9/11 is a powerful, bewildering film with the boot going in on Bush from the first pre-credit scene, and keeps kicking as the full horror of the US administration is revealed. Nepotism in the Florida election count, the Bin Laden-Bush connection, the Saudi dominance of the US economy (the Saudis have America by the bollocks - the mere threat of withdrawing the estimated one trillion dollars invested in America makes Bush and any sucessive president King Fahd's bitch), the climate of fear following 9/11 and the unjustified invasion of Iraq based on the lie so damningly crushed by subsquent events, brought home by a mother's reaction to the death of her son in Kabala.
Bush comes across as a lovable idiot, the kind of kid you laughed at in school as you showed him the Blue Goldfish in the boys' toilets. I'm not certain such a dolt could become the figurehead of the most powerful nation on Earth, but Moore implies that he is Seller's Chauncey Gardiner surrounded by king-makers and yes-men; and at other times he is Max Wall's King Bruno the Questionable from Jabberwocky - all grand pronouncements and little substance as events unfold around him, a childrens' book about a goat on his knee as the horror of the World Trade Centre unfolds. Bush, according to Moore, is just the friendly face of corporate dictatorship - it doesn't matter who you vote for, the billionaires pulling the strings always win.
Where F9/11 is most disturbing is the juxtaposition of the Iraqi War - images of US soldiers slashing, burning and bleeding profusely to their own death metal soundtrack; broken, charred bodies of Iraqi civilians - with the smug suits of a big-business sponsored reconstruction conference, where corporations get their noses in the trough of Iraq's oil billions and discuss a future in terms of cold, hard cash. For themselves. As one grinning fool put it:
"Unfortunately, at least for the near term, we think it's going to be a good situation. Er, a dangerous situation. Good for business, bad for the people. "
One suit from the Harris Corporation could be heard complaining that his slice of the cake wasn't as ridiculously huge as that of other companies. They only got 96 million to run Iraqi TV, after the coalition forces had bombed the previous, perfectly servicable network back into the stone age, with bombs bought, doubtlessly from another grinning suit. A win-win all round. Unless you're Iraqi. Or some poorly-paid grunt waiting for the next road-side bombing in Baghdad.
What Moore does very well is to bring the horror of war home to the viewer. Not only stripping away the layers of cotton wool and gung-ho thoughtfully added by the producers of Fox News (in my limited personal experience, war is loud in a way the acoustics of your TV surround sound system does not do justice in the comfortable confines of your living room, terrifying and horrifying in a way that won't go away at night - F9/11 comes closest to this experience than any film I've ever seen), but also the human cost, where it is the poor who have their lives wrecked to protect the share portfolios of the rich.
"Where is God? Where are you?" wails a bereaved Iraqi woman as she buries five dead family members, victims of one of Rumsfeld's "precision strikes."
"Why did you have to take my son? Why is it my son that you had to take?" cries Lila Liscomb, as she reads her son's last letter home.
"It's good to be amongst the 'haves'" says Bush at a particularly sumptuous banquet, "and the 'have mores'." The majority, it appears, fall outside this category.
The film is by no means perfect. There is so much wrong with Bush's presidency that a mere 123 minutes does the subject little justice. This film should be at least another couple of hours longer just to fit it all in, but then there wouldn't have been quite so many bums on seats. However, whole sections were just far too parochial for a UK audience, but Moore didn't make the film with foreign audiences in mind. For his domestic audience one feels he is preaching to the converted.
Secondly, F9/11 descends at times into a mawkish sentimentality of a kind you only find in Robin Williams movies. Moore cannot interview to save his life, and is at his most effective when he lets his subjects express themselves in their own words. On more than one occasion he comes across as a bearded Esther Rantzen, and that is not an image I'd like to entertain for long.
Moore ends with an Orwellian analogy of total, unending war; where it doesn't matter if the enemy is Eurasia or Eastasia as long as the status quo of the one-sided conflict of rulers against their subjects is maintained. Tell the lie often enough and it becomes the truth, and F9/11 exposes the lie behind Bush's never-ending war. But with disturbingly high numbers of Americans still believing Saddam Hussein was behind the September 11th attacks, it appears that Moore's swipe at the corporatised propaganda machine still has many minds to change.
But then, "nobody cares what the proles say typical prole reaction..."
Read list-me-do. Choose-sir! Vote-o!
* Trench Warfare
* Filthy Dave
* Wrong Funeral
Warning: May contain traces of woe.