Fahrenheit 9/11

I must lay my cards on the table before starting this “review”; although I haven’t yet seen either of Moore’s previous films I was an avid viewer of TV Nation and thought “Stupid White Men” was a great read. I recognise and enjoy the elements of humour, satire and polemic in his work, and generally appreciate his over the top and in your face way of getting his message through.

The first thing that struck me was that the film was that it was shot in 4×3 proportions, rather than 16×9 widescreen. I notice things like that because my job involves working with High definition TV technology for the US market. The second was that the cinema was fuller than normal, and the audience more restless.

The film charts the George W Bush presidency from the beginning when we thought the other guy had won, through the recounts and challenges, to September 2001, and the reactions to that to the second Gulf War.

Moore’s broad brush and in your face approach to presenting facts is evident throughout. As well as being a master polemicist, he’s a great film maker and frequently grabs you by the guts by his use of, and in one case omission of, shocking imagery. There are laughs along the way, although given the nature of 9/11 and the Iraq war, these are grimmer and more infrequent than I’m used to as a TV Nation viewer. Occasionally he does go too far, leaving himself exposed. For example for a cheap laugh he lists the morineffectualal members of the “coalition of the willing” conveniently missing out any members who actually provided troops. It is funny and you laugh but you kick yourself afterwards for going along with such a naughty trick.

I had three main problems with the film. Firstly much of the source material was TV news footage and outtakes, blown up to greater than screen size. This causes strobing and flickering that can make the viewer feel sick for all the wrong reasons. Second was a jump cut to footage of an explosion, cynically placed at the end of a sequence of kids playing in the street in pre-war Baghdad. Thirdly the film seems to go on too long and could do with loosing 20% of the running time.

Is that all you say? Well I’m a lefty and a Moore sympathiser, did you expect me to disagree with the thing all that much? That said I left the cinema slightly depressed and disappointed. Disappointed perhaps because I didn’t think I’d learned anything new, and depressed because I’d been reminded of what a terrible mess we’re in.

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