A Real Punch in the Face

in 57th Cannes Film Festival

by Agnès Catherine Poirier

Monday the 17th of May, 4pm, Lumière theatre. This is the official screening of Fahrenheit 911, Michael Moore’s latest opus. Although the afternoon screenings haven’t got the allure of the evenings’- many less glamorous cleavages and almost no tuxedos – the atmosphere inside the movie theatre is electric. May be because Moore has requested that 200 seats be allocated to the French showbiz artists demonstrating in Cannes for their rights. Two days before, Moore even demonstrated with them down Rue d’Antibes. The colossal Harvey Weinstein from Miramax parades next to the even more awesome Moore. The public roars with applause, hungry for Moore’s film. Lights go out. Here comes Fahrenheit 911, as we dreamt it: hilariously funny, nasty at times but always witty, beautifully edited to music, informative and yes, partisan. Spontaneous clapping often interrupts the film. When the end credits roll, the ovation erupts into big waves of applause and jeering. It will last 17 minutes – at my watch. Nobody leaves the theatre, nobody wants to, nobody can! Many people record it on their mobile phone or take pictures. Over the applause, Moore, the great communicator, silently introduces his team. His editor, with a scissor gesture; his music supervisor, with the mimics of a pianist; etc.

The producer of the BBC radio programme for which I do daily round-ups calls and asks my opinion of the film. Upon my enthusiasm, she awkwardly apologises: I won’t be doing my daily review today; they have an American critic saying that Fahrenheit 911 is “all rubbish”. A few minutes later, another editor of another BBC radio programme calls: same story. British censorship is already in first gear! The day after, reviews reveal the uneasiness of certain critics. They all use the same reasons for saying that Fahrenheit 911 is a minor film: partial, biased, not the work of a journalist, too emotional, based on TV news footage, nasty, etc. In fact, a lot of supposedly left-wing critics don’t know how to deal with Moore. He is too free for them, an uncontrollable agent who doesn’t play by the book, who doesn’t rely on Democrats anymore to do the job of informing the American people. Fahrenheit 911 is biased? Well, of course. This is no documentary but a pamphlet. Partisan? Well, of course, he never pretended to deliver an impartial investigation. Not the work of a journalist? Well, no, Moore has never been a journalist and never claimed he was. Fahrenheit 911 is too emotional? Well, yes, this is Moore’s weapon of mass persuasion, along with a hilarious sense of humour, to reach his audience. His audience: not the ‘sophisticated’ anti-war European crowds, but the indoctrinated and ill-informed people from Milwaukee. The same people who may well elect George Bush for a second time and be responsible for a decision, which will affect us all. Fahrenheit 911 amply deserves its Palme d’Or. No need to say “it’s a political choice”, no need to diminish its cinematic merits. The film exists; it’s here, vital for us, citizens of the world, a real punch in the face, the most needed film of the year. In other words, the best film.