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Fahrenheit 9/11

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Fahrenheit 9/11

Starring: Michael Moore
Director: Michael Moore
Rated: R
RunTime: 112 Minutes
Release Date: June 2004
Genre: Documentary

Review by Harvey Karten
3½ stars out of 4

Michael Moore's politics are as far left as you can get short of being a socialist. On affirmative action, for example, the title of his book "Stupid White Men" tells it all that this country is unfortunately run by the same people he'd refuse to hire for any job he personally undertakes. Moore, a New Yorker Upper West Side of course is not the most tolerant guy you can imagine. In "Bowling for Columbine" he shows his contempt for the Nike company CEO, to take just one of many examples, a corporation that pays pennies per hour for the Indonesians who make the athletic shoes. He's shocked that this CEO has never been to Indonesia, not even to visit a typical factory making the product that made him a multi-millionaire. In "Roger and Me," he seeks to track down General Motors chairman Roger Smith to show him what his factory closing did to the town of Flint, Michigan. If you don't think General Motors has any responsibility to keep up the roster of employees it once had in that hapless city, you'll simply have to agree to disagree with Moore. But even if you're ferociously against the documentarian's political beliefs, you're likely to see any film with his signature for one reason: Moore is funny. No dour leftist who lectures us about the evils of trans-national corporations, he takes a light touch because he obviously realizes that unless you're entertaining, you're not going to get your message. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. You may wonder how he can tastefully inject humor into his essay called "Fahrenheit 9/11," whose title carries us back to Francois Truffaut's 1966 adaptation of Ray Bradbury's sci-fi novel depicting future Earth civilization where all printed material is banned, and also, of course, to the fateful day in 2001 when 3,000 people were killed in the worst punishment ever inflicted on American civilians by a foreign entity.

In "Fahrenheit 9/11" Moore is fair and balanced just as Fox News is fair and balanced, but Moore's leftist allegiances are a welcome antidote to Fox's love for corporate power. (Ironically enough, Disney honcho Michael Eisner's refusal to allow Miramax to release this movie is as good a testament Moore could get about the overwhelming power of corporate America to get its way though much praise is due to Lions Gate for picking up where the Weinstein brothers were rebuffed.)

If there is a theme that runs through "Fahrenheit 9/11" it's that Bush has got to go. The writer-director never actually says this: he allows our President and his staff to make the case for termination better. ince we're dealing largely with the war in Iraq, where hundreds of Americans lost their lives, you'd think that humor would be contraindicated but somehow Moore catches the big kahunas, particularly Bush, in situations that allow us to laugh at the president's unintentional humor. Consider how, on the golf course, Bush delivers an off-the-cuff remark on how terrorism must be destroyed, following his high-level, if obvious, plea with "Now watch this drive."

A considerable part of the film deals with our relations with the Saudis, more specifically the friendship between Saudi rulers like that country's ambassador to the U.S. Prince Bandar who is nicknamed "Bandar Bush" because of the cuddly relationship the two enjoy. The Saudis have given Bush, Bush Sr. and members of the Bush coterie one point five billion dollars. Perhaps there's good reason to dos-a-dos with the Saudi regime considering that the Saudi's own seven percent of America some eight hundred billion dollars in investments. Anger them and their withdrawal of funds could cause considerable havoc with the stock market.

The most involving part of the two-hour doc deals not with esoteric issues surrounding Saudi Arabia, whose "democracy" is exhibited on screen albeit at a distance as we watch an executioner behead a prisoner with two blows of the sword. While there's much on Moore's mind to turn him off on Dubya such as the documentarian's conviction that the Election of 2000 was stolen from Al Gore the current war most infuriates the film-maker. The vast majority of soldiers now fighting and dying are from poverty classes, with Flint Michigan coming in for some nice sweeps of the camera across ramshackle housing in a town that has an unofficial rate of fifty percent of its population unemployed or underemployed. Young men and women without hope, without jobs, find a place in the armed forces, little realizing that they'd be sent to the fiery hell that is Iraq while, by contrast, only one of America's five hundred thirty-five congressmen and senators has a child over there. (In the film's most humorous moments, Moore reads the Homeland Security Act over an ice-cream truck's loud-speaker to our legislators surrounding the Capitol building since, as he finds out from one outspoken lawmaker, nobody reads most of the bills that are voted into law.

Particularly emotional clips include one of an American woman whose son died "for nothing" and more than one of Iraqi civilians whose innocent loved ones were killed by what they call the hated occupiers. (Bush at one point states, "Nobody wants to be occupied. If I were occupied, I'd be angry too!") Well-known character who take center stage in addition to the President include Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, and Paul Wolfowitz (who prepares for a TV interview by wetting his comb in his mouth and finishes by spitting on his hand, then rubbing his hand into his hair).

Leaving the film, we can't help getting the impression that John Kerry who is not mentioned in this documentary is a shoo-in for office. We can only wonder what the pro-Bush citizens will think of the film if they even bother to see it: no other president in memory, not even Nixon, was eviscerated in a movie with such a deft combination of humor and fury.

Copyright 2004 Harvey Karten

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