Go to Homepage   Fahrenheit 9/11: The Tom Sawyer Award

  Crescent Blues Movie Views

If you visit Washington, D.C., and some scruffy guy shoves a microphone in your face, think twice -- and then run! He'll give you one plank to fill in his particular fence. But who looks good painting himself into a corner? Given a subject like September 11 -- with so many questions igniting the fire of anger -- the only answer is Michael Moore, the most controversial filmmaker of our time.

This writer/director/producer plays in the big leagues, where legends like Woody Allen juggle multiple creative roles successfully. The two share a remarkable ability to act the straight man while all those around them go berserk -- right on cue. Allen excels at the neurotic intellectual. Moore projects the seedy schlep, whose scruffy beard and wardrobe of sweat-shirts make him look like he belongs in an unemployment line.

Among other awards, Moore should receive kudos for his acting. While watching his movie, who stops to think this writer creates a unique character? Rebellious as the saintly Marlon Brando and determined as Gregory Peck to pull justice down from the heavens, Moore's understated persona tramps about in full view. The audience sides with him automatically: No matter his power, he resonates with the indignation of the little guy.

As he interviews participants around the world, their faces loom with importance equal to the famous characters in an ongoing drama. Visually, he hauls President Bush from his podium to confront his public. Intermittently, he applies the same tactics to a reclusive Saudi royal family. In this rearrangement of potentates, Moore presents an expanded cast of characters unified by a whirlwind that keeps expanding, too.

The intermingling of genres creates a provocative product. A classical tragedy like The Trojan Women inevitably ends with wailing woman, protesting war. Here, Moore's archetypical mother hikes toward the seat of American government, joining her director in his confrontational method. Once again, she does not overdress or appear to work with a script. So Moore offers the underdog a chance to improvise along with him, releasing pain together into the catharsis recommended by no less than Aristotle in his Poetics.

From the beginning to the end of this documentary, we follow the director as he seeks meaningful connections between scattered fragments of information. The splicing of campaign footage and historical film with interviews opens altogether uncharted waters for the most inventive moviemakers. Afterwards, who can leave the theater without wondering how much fiction in nightly news results from embedding such sound bites?

Moore's attempt to link the legacies of the most powerful rulers on our planet should propel his audience into zealous research. This artist cherishes and succeeds in his dramatic purpose. As a historian, though, I doubt he'll receive a Pulitzer Prize. The blackout of the crucial September 11 attack scene tips his directorial hand and forces his audience surrender solely to their hearing. In every way possible, Michael Moore insists the choices in a democracy must be ours. See this movie today!

Meg Curtis

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