Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

(In theaters, June 2004) Devastating. It’s not that there is a lot of new material here (reading a lot of left-wing blogs helps in being jaded), but the way Michael Moore arranges nearly four years of American history in a coherent opinion piece is unbelievably effective. From Bush’s incompetent first few months in power to the trauma of September 11th and the terror hysteria leading up to the invasion of Iraq, Moore says out loud what an increasing number of people are thinking. His use of archival footage is nearly flawless and speaks for itself (though I would have used dates and attributions on every single frame); compared to his previous Bowling For Columbine, Moore manages to avoid being on-camera most of the time and the film is much more effective for it. I defy other movies this year to do what Fahrenheit 9/11 does on an emotional register; in a large crowd, you can hear the laughs, the crying, the gasps and the stunned denials. The music also helps a lot, going from the unsubtle (“Vacation”) to the ironic (oscillating between happy and ominous music between shots) to the breathtakingly nasty (I wonder how many people noticed the “Cocaine” riff?) Yes, it’s a mash-up of two movies (the pre-Iraq treatise on Bush’s incompetence and corruption; then the Iraq mess), but that’s at the image of what has happened to Moore, heck, to America itself in 2001-2004, smashed from one narrative to another whether they liked it or not. All in all, a wonder of a movie, one that actually dares to push back the establishment, and even veers into highly subversive territory mere moments before fading to black. Whew!

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