Saturday, July 10, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11 has been released here in the UK -- I went to see it this evening.

Technically, it's not a great piece of film-making, in the sense that most of the original material in the movie is poorly and lazily shot. It is, however, a great piece of editing. Moore artfully stitches together some of the most powerful moments from the last four years of American history, ranging from TV footage of Attorney General John Ashcroft singing "Let the Eagle Soar" and President Bush reading "My Pet Goat" while New York burned to American soldiers discussing the heavy metal tracks they enjoy listening to while bombing Iraq to dust.

The result is an infuriating, wholly one-sided, not always convincing but at least thought-provoking film.

Moore's use of bereaved Iraq war mother Lila Lipscomb is the crudest propaganda technique imaginable and is symptomatic of Moore's limited rhetorical range. No one can fail to be moved by the sight of a tearful mother wailing for her dead child, but that doesn't in itself mean the war in Iraq was unjustified.

More contemptible, however, is his failure to acknowledge even in passing the tyranny of Saddam Hussein's regime. Michael Moore's opposition to the Iraq war is all very well, but to depict Saddam's Baghdad as a city of children playing happily while barbers contentedly clip hair is just revisionist history. What about Halaba?

There's little in the film that hasn't be said elsewhere -- often by journalists and writers far superior and more rigorous to Moore. But never before has it been said so accessibly or entertainingly.

Fahrenheit 9/11 deserves neither the praise nor the condemnation it has received. But it does deserve the attention.