Tom Goulter - Named Art Collective - Christchurch

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The Most Disturbing Moment In Fahrenheit 9/11
or, A Dream For George



But, contrary to BUSH's assertions, it's apparent that things aren't under control in the liberated Iraq. The lack of stability is apparent in the CHARRED BODIES of two US contractors/mercs, which we see in MONTAGE:


Being hooked to the back of a CAR.

Being HUNG like grisly pinatas, dangling and being BASHED by furious NEWLY LIBERATED IRAQIS.



TOM, slightly sickened, and his movie-buddy, DANNY, exchange worried glances as:

(comprising maybe 1/3 of
the audience)



I mean, sure. So this was an "arthouse" audience on the preview-screening night of a much-anticipated picture. And (with the possible exception of papered theatre audiences) nobody's as notorious for laughing loudly at inappropriate moments as Rialto audiences. (Cause they Get It, see?)

And yeah, sure, so the whole sequence was introduced with what would, if your viewing diet consisted of nothing but reruns of Friends, seem an awful lot like one of those hilarious moments when someone makes an emphatic statement, and then you crosscut to an image that proves just how wrong that statement turns out to be in the Real World. So, yes, if your grasp of audio-visual grammar was that severely limited and your synapses were that way wired, I suppose an "ironic cross-cut" might seem like a "laughter" cue card.

And. Yes. It's been established, long ago, that these were, of course, the charred mutilated bodies of paid heavies, dudes who went to Iraq for the express purpose of getting paid to walk around looking staunch and/or use large firearms in whatever manner they saw fit.


The fact remains that nobody I've talked to, here or elsewhere, thought there was any kind of comedic intent in the scene, and many were in fact somewhat horrified that any audience could recieve it that way; and examples like this make it obvious that, for all its merits and all its flaws, Fahrenheit 9/11 is a highly subjective piece of media. Not subjective as in the documentarian feels free to express his own views*, but as in audience reception, depending on the nature of the audience in question, may vary greatly.
And Muggins here had the good fortune to be in an audience comprised of 2/3 People Who Give A Fuck About International Affairs, and 1/3 People Who One Day Intend To Read Stupid White Men Because Mikey Havoc Namechecked It.

And while I'm belatedly giving my thoughts on Fahrenheit:

- I think there's a gripping documentary yet to be made on Florida 2000, but the only people that would watch it would be The Converted anyway, so I suppose there's little point in making it. Being a round-about way of saying I'm glad Moore didn't dwell on this aspect of his narrative.

- Moore-debunking (from the comprehensive to the rather sad) and Carlyle-hunting are both such popular pastimes it's hard to find the energy to hyperlink to examples thereof; but the mere fact that a team of filmmakers can exert as much of its time and energy on research and fact-collecting as most movies spend on CG and still do solid business is a heartening fact indeed.

- The fact that of all the Senators who voted to invade Iraq, only one has children in the armed forces has long been a particular beef of mine; unfortunate, then, that Moore chooses to use this fact as an opportunity for his somewhat trademark brand of schtick in the movie. The whole sequence with the enrolment papers and the clipboard, rather than making a simple and rather shocking point, serves mainly just to remind us that most Republican Senators, given their druthers, would rather not talk to Michael Moore. Which is neither a revelation nor particularly despicable, in and of itself.

- I'm developing something of a soft spot for George W. Bush the man. Not, obviously, the President - he's dangerous and/or a criminally retarded oaf, as any joe on the street will no doubt tell you. But as a guy, Bush strikes me more and more as nothing more than something of an unholy fool - a rich, not particularly visionary or power-craving simpleton who, really, would by all accounts be a nice enough guy if he weren't running the world into the ground. After reading Moore and Slater's Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential, and then looking into those eyes as he sits, stranded, in the room full of children unaware that their country is under attack, it's tempting to see Bush less as any kind of active agent in the despicable, myopic collision-course that is his own presidency, and more as a privileged goof who isn't negligently destructive himself, so much as having negligent destructiveness thrust upon him. To wax hackneyed: things fall apart, to be sure, but can you really hate the man all that much for having the misfortune to be the centre that would never hold?

I don't know. Maybe you can. Maybe I can too; an endearingly loose grasp on the English language and a shadow cabinet full of scheming Viziers is no excuse for being at the helm when the events of the past 4 years have taken place.
But I like to think that somewhere, in an alternate universe with chads that work or a public with a little more backbone, that there's a little backwoods town in Colorado or Montana; a town where the air smells like wood smoke on a winter's night, and where the waitresses at the diner know just how you like your coffee. And that little town has a hardware store, maybe a combination lumber and DIY appliance dealer, a place with hand-written price tags and neatly swept floors that always smell just a little bit of fresh sawdust.
Behind the counter, the store owner has just finished sweeping up for the enening. His sun-bleached flannel shirt is tucked into a soft old leather tool-belt, all manner of well-worn t-squares and spirit-levels and whatnot dangling off it. He turns as you approach the counter. Putting his broom to the side, he turns and smiles, a simple, warm grin - welcoming, letting you know folks round here have all the time in the world, even for big-city folk like you. He's proud of his little corner, and wants nothing more from life than his store, and his tool-belt, and his straight, shiny name-badge - on which, obviously, he's carefully stencilled the legend:

* Which ought to be obvious, but the way some folk lap up everything Moore has to say without question - not to lionise Moore, but I doubt he'd want it that way - I often doubt it. There's a tendency in some circles to tout Fahrenheit 9/11 (or Stupid White Men, or Dude, Where's My Country?, or even the relatively nonpartisan Bowling For Columbine) like Moore's word is the truth on the lips of every savvy left-leaning international citizen; and this strikes me as a little counter-productive, a bit like folk who assume that The Passion Of The Christ is an accurate reflection of the way all Christians feel about the Crucifixion or Jews or Christianity in general.
For the record, then: Michael Moore does not single-mindedly speak for everyone who's anti-Bush (and nor does he claim to), any more than Mel Gibson speaks for (or claims to speak for) all Christians. Thank you for your time.