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Thread: FAHRENHEIT 11/9 (Michael Moore 2018)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    FAHRENHEIT 11/9 (Michael Moore 2018)



    Moore revisits the political hyperreal

    Michael Moore's new documentary, whose title reverses the one attacking George W. Bush and his false war on Iraq to focus on America's new horror, which begins with November 11th, the day of Donald J. Trump's election, is as chaotic as these times and may be his most disturbing film yet. Here, randomly, are some of the things in it that stood out to me. They fill us with a sense of clear and present danger.

    We knew about the scandal of Flint, Michigan's water, a black majority area switched away from the pure water of Lake Huron and forced to use water from the Flint River, polluted by lead and other toxins, by the state's unconscionable Republican governor, Rick Snyder, then covering up that the children tested at a dangerous level of lead in their systems. But this is a still unresolved problem, and furthermore, Flint is Moore's home town and the site of his first film Roger and Me. He dwells long and revealingly on this abomination, which he sees as what Trump is doing to the country writ large. What we did not know is that a year later, President Obama staged a dramatic trip to Flint - and did nothing. The citizens expected him to take charge. Instead he staged, three times, the public gesture of asking for a glass of the local water and sipping from it, as if to show that it was okay. "He arrived as my President," says a lady. "After that, he was not my President any more."

    Moore also gets up close to the young people of Parkland, Florida whose Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School suffered a mass killing and blossomed into Never Again MSD, leaders of a mass revolt of youth that marched on Washington to demand changes in gun laws. What effect this may have we don't know, but one of the strong positive waves in this film is of young people galvanized by corruption and inaction and the appalling current Administration into entering politics and taking new ongoing independent action - which should show up in the coming elections. An elder takes credit for their development and a Parkland kid says "No, it was social media, Facebook." That is their mentor. Moore also cites a whole litany of 2018 polls to show that America is "a left-leaning nation." He has done this before, and so have others. Presumably the keys, if this is true, to why it doesn't show in American politics or life, are two: the power of money to buy politicians, and the Electoral College. If you wonder why Parkland matters to Moore, you've forgotten that Bowling for Columbine, about a school killing, won him the 2002 Best Documentary Oscar. (Fahrenheit 9/11 won him the 2004 Palme d'Or at Cannes.)

    There is much in Fahrenheit 11/9 about the presidential election, and that is nothing new, but Moore gives it his own twists. The universal delusion of democrats - which James D. Stern: spends his entire silly film American Chaos on, that Trump couldn't possibly win, a mistake Moore himself didn't make, though he takes no pride in this - he clears away more neatly than anybody else in a few minutes before the opening credits. He focuses on an odd fact. He points to what he claims is the origin of Trump's running for President: that he found out Gwen Stefani got paid more for performing on NBC’s The Voice than he did for the network's other reality series, The Celebrity Apprentice. Running for President, Trump thought, according to Moore, would show NBC how popular he was, and get him a higher salary. Instead, he said so many vile things NBC fired him, but by then Trump was in love with the power his campaign rallies made him feel.

    There is a lot more unrelated stuff in this, which the Guardian reviewer at Toronto called " the documentarian’s biggest, baggiest film yet, an overstuffed American epic that invokes everything from the West Virginian teachers’ strike to the Nuremberg trials." But the most pointed stuff, which undercuts itself - unless you hold your nose and notice how pointed it is - with comparisons to Hitler and Nazi Germany - is all about Trump's strong deviations from any concept of democratic leadership. Clips show him hinting, not really jokingly, at his sympathies with dictators and leaders serving in office for life. He would like to reign twelve years, like FDR, or eighteen, or why not forever? And Moore shows Trump's repeated brutality toward hecklers and black men at his rallies and his calling for them to be bodily harmed. Moore talks to people about the fragility of democracy and points out that we've never had it, only striven for it. And it may be slipping away. Why are we not more afraid?

    This film provides the same heady, hyper-politicized impressions you get when you hear Michael Moore speak in person: his complicated sense that we're on the edge of chaos, where everything is political and everything is connected and on the brink. Thus he imagines Trump coming to Flint to admire Michigan Governor Snyder's handiwork in poisoning a whole city of black people, because he imagines this is the kind of systematic step the white racist Trump contemplates. Moore writes things large, but this is how he sees, with a magnified intensity of hyper-political vision. You can criticize this film for jumping around, for going on too long at over two hours. But minute to minute, the texture is rich. Even though the Flint water story isn't new, his coverage of it it is more detailed and more eye-opening than anybody else's. So is his coverage of the Parkland school kids, whom he films in some intimate scenes, cheering their victory when a Republican candidate who smears one of them as a "bald lesbian" is forced out of the race. The "bald lesbian" (Emma González) gets hers back, as a powerful speech by her about he school's losses ends the film with a long, troubling silence to honor the slain.

    There are also the usual provocative Trump gestures - offering a Flint official a glass of Flint water to drink, since he says it's safe (he won't), then spraying the "mansion" of Governor Snyder with the same water from a truck. He had attempted to put the Governor under citizen's arrest. Too much about this small matter? Not when I remember now Obama's ineffectual visit to Flint, a betrayal of responsibility that goes with all the wrongs of the past four US Presidents, which Moore also lists, the capitulations to Wall Street, the drone assassinations, the mass incarceration of black men, the elimination of welfare. The move to the Right, he correctly traces back to Bill Clinton, and he lists the key actions in that process. No one is left standing. That is why Moore is hated and why he is powerful: he takes no prisoners, has no fear, bothers not with courtesies.

    As Glenn Kenny points out in his New York Times review, Moore is a particularly keen observer of Trump because he, like Trump, is a showman. Moore sees that Trump has "always committed his crimes in plain sight," and this is how he gets away with them. They seem a joke. He proposes an absurdity, like being President for life, then smiles and takes it back. And then he does a double take as if to say, "Maybe I'm not really joking, but you don't know." Trump's bald, jokey, reality TV manner, which he has carried with him into the Presidency, enables him a plausible format in which to be shockingly un-Presidential, while saying "See? I'm here. I'm President!" It's a joke, but the joke isn't on him. It's on us. We the people. If only Jean Baudrillard were here, he would love Trump, as he loved 9/11. The election of Trump was a second 9/11, staged from within.

    Fahrenheit 11/9, 128 mins., debuted at Toronto 6 Sept. 2018, and opened in US theaters 21 Sept. LFF showing 14 Oct., UK release 19 Oct. Metascore: 71%.


    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-04-2018 at 07:36 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Ottawa Canada
    Many thanks for your astute review Chris.
    Michael Moore still has weight.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area
    He does indeed. Nice to hear from you Johann.

    Remember all the discussion on Filmleaf about Fahrenheit 9/11?
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-22-2018 at 12:21 PM.


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