June 24, 2004

Michael Moore Preachin' To The Converted

It's not really that Cinecultist expected boos and rotting fruit to erupt from the audience at last night's 8:45 pm screening of Michael Moore's newest Fahrenheit 9/11 in the East Village, we just weren't prepared for the rousing support in the form of applause before and after the film. Then again, if there ever were a choir to Moore's preacher man, it would be the 20 and 30 somethings gathering on opening night in Manhattan's downtown for a liberal political flick. Moore is a propagandist of the highest order, he constructs his argument and footage to fit his message but CC wouldn't say that it's not a persuasive case that he makes. It certainly is an unsettling and at times moving argument, as CC jumped, cringed and cried a little through the 2 hours.

Cinecultist will say that MM and his editors Kurt Engfehr and T. Woody Richman do know a little something about the Kuleshov effect. As the Russian director Lev Kuleshov and his Moscow film students discovered in the '20s, most meaning in films are derived from the mental association between two images edited side by side and MM deploys this effectively as he cuts together pictures like playing Iraqi children and exploding bombs. As per his usual pull at your heart strings documentary technique, MM takes to the streets sharing the stories of "ordinary Americans" whose interaction with the policies enacted by the Bush Administration reveals its corruption, injustice and heartlessness. In particular the scenes with a Flint Michigan mother who professes herself as a patriotic American reacts to her son's death in Iraq particularly wrenched our guts. MM wants to make it clear that this is a person who feels they've been lied to by the government in regards to terror and the Iraq War, but now her eyes are open.

While CC would never advocate all Americans switch from mouthing the platitudes of Rummy, Cheney and Bush (WMDs, Saddam and Al Qaeda linked, etc.) to spewing exactly what MM tells you, we will be keeping our eyes and ears open to further support of this severely dissenting evidence. To put next to each other 3 or so minutes of black screen with sounds from September 11th and then to show Bush just sitting in the Florida classroom for minutes on end doing nothing, its enough to make anyone sit up and pay attention to this coming election. Which if CC understands MM's agenda and the purpose of making Fahrenheit 9/11 in the first place, is exactly what Michael Moore intends.

Below you can see Cinecultist's slightly grainy phone cam pictures taken at the screening, from the left: A listing of available showing on the door last night, starting at midnight and running through the early morning to 8 am. A group of political activists talk it up to the exiting crowd at 11 pm. A view of the theater from across the street, Loews VII according to MM's website this morning, brought in record ticket sales of over $49,000 worth last night. Zowie, that's a lot of politico hipster kids at the movies.

sold out screenings political action outside the view from the street

Cinecultist's thoughts in May on the Disney distribution controversy. IndieWIRE's coverage of the release.

Posted by karen at June 24, 2004 8:20 AM

Great review Karen. (Certainly better than my drunken ramblings.) It is indeed propaganda, but is it art? As much as I enjoyed the film on a personal level, I'm finiding it harder to accept that it won the Palme d'Or.

How about the 437 trailers they ran before the film (or were you spared that?) The 8:00 showing certainly wasn't!)

Posted by: Filmbrain at June 24, 2004 10:05 AM

I haven't seen it yet, but did you read the SCATHING Hitchens review on Slate? Moore makes me extremely uncomfortable (the frolicking children/bombs juxtaposition really illustrates why), but at the same time, we took our 16-yo nephew (who lives in the Bible Belt) to see Bowling for Columbine, and it really reached him in a way a more "measured" documentary couldn't have. Thanks for a great take. Can't wait to see it!

Posted by: Jennifer at June 24, 2004 5:08 PM

I think Moore is pretty heavy-handed, but unfortunately I think that's what it's going to take to get anyone to listen.

Posted by: Wiley Wiggins at June 29, 2004 9:26 PM