Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" - Film Review

Essay by penlineHigh School, 12th grade July 2004

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Respect for the president is a longstanding American tradition and one that is still very much alive, as the weeklong national obsequies for Ronald Reagan recently proved. But there is also an opposing tradition of holding up our presidents, especially while they are in office, to ridicule and scorn.

Which is to say that while Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" will be properly debated on the basis of its factual claims and cinematic techniques, it should first of all be appreciated as a high-spirited and unruly exercise in democratic self-expression. Mixing sober outrage with mischievous humor and blithely trampling the boundary between documentary and demagoguery, Mr. Moore takes wholesale aim at the Bush administration, whose tenure has been distinguished, in his view, by unparalleled and unmitigated arrogance, mendacity and incompetence.

That Mr. Moore does not like Mr. Bush will hardly come as news. "Fahrenheit 9/11," which opens in Manhattan today and in the rest of the country on Friday, is many things: a partisan rallying cry, an angry polemic, a muckraking inquisition into the use and abuse of power.

But one thing it is not is a fair and nuanced picture of the president and his policies. What did you expect? Mr. Moore is often impolite, rarely subtle and occasionally unwise. He can be obnoxious, tendentious and maddeningly self-contradictory. He can drive even his most ardent admirers crazy. He is a credit to the republic.

While his new film, awarded the top prize at the Cannes International Film Festival this year, has been likened to an op-ed column, it might more accurately be said to resemble an editorial cartoon. Mr. Moore uses archival video images, rapid-fire editing and playful musical cues to create an exaggerated, satirical likeness of his targets. The president and his team have obliged him by...