Monday, May 17

Fahrenheit 9/11: "Expression Of Outraged Patriotism"

A.O. Scott in tomorrow's NY Times:

The audience at the afternoon gala screening responded with a 20-minute standing ovation that the festival's artistic director, Thierry Fremaux, said was the longest he had ever witnessed in Cannes.

Mr. Moore may be a frequent sight in Cannes, but one of the most striking things about "Fahrenheit 9/11" is how little he appears in it. Perhaps because of the extreme gravity of the subject, his on-camera appearances this time are limited to a sparse handful of the good-humored man-on-the-street stunts that have been his trademark since "Roger and Me." (In one scene he approaches members of Congress and tries to persuade them to enlist their own children in the armed forces.)

The content of "Fahrenheit 9/11," which begins on election night in 2000 and was completed only 10 days before arriving in Cannes, is not entirely unfamiliar. Its bill of particulars against Mr. Bush can be found in a number of recently published books, and it is unapologetically polemical. It is also the best film Mr. Moore has made so far, a powerful and passionate expression of outraged patriotism, leavened with humor and freighted with sorrow. Yes, I said patriotism, though there will inevitably be those, pointing to the film's enthusiastic reception in France, who will insist that it is the opposite. They should (unlike Disney's board of directors) see it first.

I will not summarize or quarrel with the movie's points here; there will be time for that when it arrives in the United States. I will say what surprised me most about it. We all know Mr. Moore as a polemicist and a muckraker, and according to our views and tastes we revile, lionize or equivocate about him as such. (For my part I've mostly been among the equivocators).

"Fahrenheit 9/11," his most disciplined and powerful movie to date, suggests that he is also, arguably, a great filmmaker. Using interviews and archival video clips (including a tape made by the staff at the Florida elementary school Mr. Bush was visiting on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001), he has assembled a moving and invigorating documentary. Is it partisan? Of course. But there are not many important films that haven't been.