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2004.06.24

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anotherid3000

Communist! French-lover! Drunk!

girish

don't take it down--
remember:
"in vino veritas"!
it was a good, unmediated (unless you count the sake) personal response.
by the way, by "le texte contre l'image", did you mean eisenstein's montage "collision" idea?

Filmbrain

Well, that's certainly part of it. Godard had some pretty nasty things to say about the film (even though he hadn't seen it) and one of them was how "Moore doesn't distinguish between text and image".

Hopefully I'll find time this morning to write some more about it.

Nick

I thought I was watching Fox News. I thought it was a TV show. One of those you would find on the Cable, when hitting the remote with frenzy and despair of finding something different, and wouldn't. Yes I wish I had a remote control during Michael Moore's anti-Bush pamphlet. Not because of its aim, since I personally hate the current administration myself. But I remember that after a while, I couldn't take it anymore. I was drowned in the flow of images, with the nonsense going on and on, switching instantly, without transition, to image of litteral horrors (burnt corpes being kicked at), and just simply no context, no help, no support and no information. A lot of horror, a lot of voyeurism, a lot of demagoguery, a lot of misleadings. If the goal is to gain people's attention by any means, because he wants them not to vote for Bush, I don't think it will work. Should it work, I don't think that this movie will give an understanding of what these past four years have been all about. Filmbrain, you claim that Michael Moore showed some restrain, I think that's quite the opposite, and that his previous features were much better than this one.
Where is the restraint when showing such disgusting images, like a close up on the burnt corpses being kicked by (actually just a few) Iraqis, without any context, in the middle of other violent sequences. What is the restrain when Moore compleasingly films this woman, who once was a supporter of the war, and then cries several times, litterally stealing every moment of her tragedy. Did Moore hear about editing? Does he know that there are other ways than Fox News way to make Cinema and movies? If you like TV (which is not my case, since I just acquired Cable, after years of interruption, and already regrets it), if you like Fox News, if you like Bill O'Reilly Factor's show (even though you're not republican), then you'll love Michael Moore non-documentary images.

Toto

This is a hard film. The images shake you. Nothing there to warn you of what's coming next. You don't relax until the end, and any laughing you do is wry.

I suppose this is the double-edged sword of the images shown in this film: one side of you is horrified by the agony you see - whether it is the psychological trauma of the loss of loved ones both Iraqi and American, or the results of raw physical abuse of innocents and combatants, children and adults; of Americans and Iraqis. And here it's not necessarily the Abu-Graib style abuse (though we do see some) - worse is the totally arbitrary nature of blind ordnance.

The other side, the side I would rather blacken out, but which rises up from the dungeon where I vainly try to keep it locked away, is that of animal brutality. Moore also touches on this: his video clippings show television journalists enthusing about the "rush" that combat gives - the reptilian satisfaction of the kill, most eloquently and explicitly described by the wicked description one soldier gives of his feelings of mastery over life and death as his CD player pipes "burn motherfucker, burn motherfucker" into his headphones - he's gone over the edge, you feel - he revels in death. I catch myself thinking: let's see that again; what did that look like just now; what would it have looked like if the rest of the body had been flayed. Voyeurism, macabre. An insidious obsession.

I have never experienced war, and hope I never will. But I wonder how I would cope. Like that soldier? Or like the one whose painful admission is that he loses a part of his own soul with every killing he sees?

Bleeding heart? Exactly.

So are these images necessary? Should we be subjected to such disgusting violence (have no illusions: disgusting is the right word)? Should Moore exploit the embarrassing breakdown of decorum evinced by a mother in distress? All this to further his political message? Are we the subjects of demagogy?

Well, yes, it is. This film presents us with an impassioned appeal to our emotions. This is not intellectual argument. This is raw. This is brutal. This is designed to shake us from complacency. Designed to make us forget about the game of deconstruction that film critics and political commentators are wont to play. Disgust? Yes. Pain? Yes. Horror? Yes. Remember that you are human.

In a sense that is part of Moore's message. War is a terrible thing. People like me have never really been confronted by it. People like me might hear about the rush, the exultation of the killing; about the necessarily close-knit relations of a team who rely on each other to survive; about the selfless giving of life or limb that the soldier is prepared to undergo to protect his country; about righteous retribution against an evil regime. A mixed bag, certainly, but it appears to sell the war.

Moore tells us to remember the rest: the dead, the crippled, the pain of lost limbs, of lost children, of lost lovers and friends. He doesn't criticize the soldiers, he doesn't even say that war itself is unnecessary.

No, his ire is aimed at George W Bush, and the fact that he led America into an unnecessary war with Iraq, after a half-hearted attempt to appease the American people's desire for action following the attacks of 9/11 by attacking Afganistan. Both wars designed, speculates Moore, to take the heat off the Saudi ruling elite, including the Bin Laden family, who own a large slice of America. And, just perhaps, to satisfy a certain lust for revenge.

Moore's smooth ingenuous voice chains together the disparate facts, mainly expounded by others, into this now well-known conspiracy theory. It's done with puns. Snips from film and television, silly montages. Easy to follow. You do get the impression you are being spoon-fed, but this is the Moore we are familiar with: exposing the bad guy by connecting the dots for us. The film certainly doesn't take the time to say where all the information comes from, but there is enough (references to available documents, commentary from suitably well-known grey-haired sages) to let us know that it's bina fide, that if we want, we can easily find out more.

Moore makes his war on two fronts: George Bush, drenched with derision, whose every appearance in the film portrays him as ridiculous, shallow and self-centred; and the war he started, with its heavy human cost - no ridicule here: this really is too serious. He ties the two together with the rest of the gung-ho administration, with their interests in the war, with their cynical opportunity to profit from the war.

It goes over that part of recent history with which we should now be really familiar - the claims about hidden weapons of mass destruction propounded by public officials, whom we see, two years before, saying there were none, and that Iraq posed no threat to other coutries; the repeated claims of an implied association of Al Qaeda with Saddam Hussein without any evidence; the apparently spineless acquiescence of the political opposition - the lies, half-truths and compromises that lead a nation to righteous war.

It touches on the war's effect on the American people: institutionalised ineffective antiterrorism measures beset by cutbacks and lobbying that render them useless, the curtailing of civil liberties in USA PATRIOT (and our own acquiescence to that for some nebulous greater good), the increased sense of distrust against any outspoken criticism of the direction given by the government.

And he returns to the thesis of Bowling for Columbine, that this war is an opportunity to keep the American people in a state of fear and uncertainty so that, in their desperation, they turn for help to the very people who put them there: the government, the one which wasn't elected. His message is clear, and he has George Bush himself to deliver it: don't get fooled again.

He wants us irate. He wants to harness our righteous anger. He wants us to rail against the corrupt and unjust system that turned democracy on its head in Florida four years ago; that sends the forgotten poor from the wreck of the industrial heartland to fight rich men's battles for want of a steady income. He wants us to be scornful of the indolent and indifferent pre-9/11 Bush; he wants us to be incensed at the War President he has become, grinning with the pride of a little by drawing his toy gun playing the cowboy with the white hat, while leaving it to others to take the bullets. He wants us to feel the disillusionment of the soldier forced to win an impossible war over the hearts and minds of people whose homes they have to raid in the middle of the night; he wants us to pity the dehumanising of others who bully and mock the people they guard.

He wants all that to stop; he wants us to think as he does; he wants us to do something about it. To care. To make a difference. To force change. To vote.

But what's really left as the credits start to roll? As a self-conscious applause rises from the packed seats, shortly before the audience packs up to leave? I wasn't left with a political zeal for American regime change. I was left in pain, the dimly reflected anguish of the accidented people this whole affair has left behind. And I value that. Lest we forget.

Bleeding heart? Absolutely.

Thank you, Mr Moore.

PS Sorry for using up your blogspace, Mr Filmbrain, but I had to get this off my chest.

FIlmbrain

No need for apologies, Toto. That was pure poetry.

Nick -- your rebuttal?

Katherine

Wow, reading Toto's comments makes me want to see the film even more. And I agree with Filmbrain about Goddard projecting his French reaction to the imagery in the film, though how Goddard can have an opinion of a film he hasn't seen is beyond me. But then here I am anticipating having a good reaction to it.

American cynicism needs a kick in the teeth and if it has to come from harsh images then so be it. Harsh images shut down the Vietnam war. I am so tired of people who suggest that showing what's true is a shameful act. The fact is, it makes you uncomfortable...and you don't want to feel uncomfortable. But face it, all you have to live with is a little discomfort. You don't have to live with amputated limbs and infested drinking water and no electricity do you? So live with it for Christ sake. Good lord.

Fuck restraint in this case. The people that whine this way will go and watch slasher movies. Give me a break. Is it really necessary to expose the ugly side of war? How ironic, that reality television is the hottest seller since sliced bread in America.

War is hell for everyone who is viscerally affected by it. If you think it's hard to watch, so hard you object to a film that displays what it is, try living through it.

These bastards in the White House who sign lives away on the dotted line don't give a shit about anyone, including Americans. It's palpably obvious they don't. How is it that Americans don't know these men aren't worthy of this kind of sacrifice. It astounds me that Americans aren't more vocal about this war and I can only conclude it's because they aren't aware of its ugliness.

Bush, like his father, and other Republicans - and Democrats - are complicit in the creation of these events. From Vietnam to Cambodia to East Timor to Afghanistan they've all had their filthy hands in foreign pies, manipulating economies, funding dictators, selling arms, supporting genocide.

It's time citizens realized they are being used and shafted by men who are corrupt beyond rescue. Bush and Osama may as well be one and the same. Truly.

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