Sunday, June 27, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11

I'm going out now to see it. The fuss here in the Snakepit Inc., all of us looking for something that would make me look like your average run-of-the-mill recanting wingnut (I want to use this outing for a good purpose)! We've decided on a very prim look with a flowery dress and white pumps and a handbag, but the look is beginning to unravel at the edges. Some hair coming out of the bun, some smeared lipstick, perhaps, and some very strong-smelling cough drops. And lots of tissues; I plan to weep buckets. Which of course I would do anyway.

More seriously, I'm going to post more once I get back, but if you want to you can use the comments to tell what you thought of the movie if you have seen it or even if you haven't.

I have seen it now. The theater was sold out, as theaters have been all over the country this weekend, and the audience gave the film a spontaneous applause at the end, as also seems to happen all over the country.

My impressions about Fahrenheit 9/11 are a little bit like my impressions about life: good and bad, all jumbled up in complicated ways. The whole movie looked to me like fireworks, the way the storyline ran around and suddenly erupted into a major joke or something painfully poignant. In fact, there were many storylines: the legitimacy of the administration, the bin Laden connections of the Bush family, the 9/11 massacres and how the president coped with this emergency, oil and its relationship to warfare and the utter inanity of the needless blood-shedding and destruction of lives in so many different ways in Iraq. At times I felt like watching a speeded-up rerun of my own recent memories about the politics of this country, but then something new would be added to the story, something that would make me go "ooh" and "aah" like when I watch fireworks. Yet the underlying plot is really about class in the United States, and its inadmissibility as a concept in public debates. Even Moore sneaks it in without calling it what it is: that the rules for the poor are different than the rules for the rich, that the poor are fighting the wars that the rich got us into.

This is of course one of Moore's major themes, and he deserves kudos for persisting on it. I believe that the public debate in the U.S. would be immeasurable richer and more meaningful if we did take class more seriously. And in his movie he shows us how class interlinks with patriotism, with serving ones country and even with who will die and when.

And of course I cried when watching the movie. It was hard not to, while listening to a woman telling how she heard about her son's death, or while seeing the damage that war does to little children. But I laughed, too, at the silly one-liners and the funny juxtapositions of politicians words against each other. And on the use of spit as a hair spray...

There has been a lot of debate about the meaning of Fahrenheit 9/11, especially whether it really is a documentary, or perhaps just sarcasm or propaganda; whether it is 'fair and balanced'. I don't think that a documentary can ever be objectively neutral, and no really good film would avoid trying to affect the emotions of the viewer. Whether Moore intends his movie to be seen as sarcasm is not clear, but considering that it opens with a 'dream scene', I think that he would agree with me in seeing our whole lives as a kind of sarcastic dream by someone else. All he is really doing with this movie is showing us the other sides: of politics, of politicians, of war, of suffering, of wealth.

So, yes, I'd recommend going to see this film. Still, it didn't affect me as strongly as I expected, given the prior accolades I had read. The most probable reason (other my cold and callous character) is that I have spent the last year reading blogs and other sources of news on the internet, and very little in the information of the movie was new to me. Still, to show something by using living pictures, sound and every single emotional device that filmmakers govern is different than reading about it in a newspaper or blog. It's a more direct way to the brain and heart of the audience, and as we desperately need the American public to hear both sides of the story, and as this side of the story has so long been neglected and misrepresented as "America-hating", I believe that Moore's movie is an important one to see by as many people as possible. And no, it's not an anti-military movie; if anything, it is an ode to the common soldier.