Michael Moore takes on Trump with fire and fury in Fahrenheit 11/9by James Robins
The conflagration that gave the US President Trump is traced to September 2001.
So, “How the f--- did this happen?”, he asks at the start of Fahrenheit 11/9, a blast of invective, a hit-and-miss interrogation of the past 24 months and a polemic against what he sees as the doom to come.
Fahrenheit 11/9 is, in fact, four films crammed into one, and each could have been better made into its own feature.
The first is an acid-tongued takedown of Trump as a lecherous, incoherent demagogue, spending much time dwelling on the creepy things he’s said about his daughter, Ivanka. However, Moore fails to probe deeper into Trump’s past. He makes no mention of his previous bid for the presidency when he sought the nomination for Ross Perot’s Reform Party in 2000, his support for the anti-Obama Birther movement or the dubious tax-dodging origins of his property empire.
Second, there’s a rallying cry. Moore covers this year’s wildcat teachers’ strikes in West Virginia, the young survivors of February’s Parkland, Florida, school shooting demanding action on gun control, and several insurgent candidates, including socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (elected to Congress last month).
The two sections that actually cohere have Moore returning to Flint, Michigan, the setting of his first film, Roger & Me. Since 2014, the city’s water has been contaminated with lead and its children incurably poisoned. On home turf, Moore is hot with anger, and the film practically glows with indignation.
That is, before it slips into ominous warnings. The title Fahrenheit 11/9 (the date when Trump was confirmed by the electoral college) is, of course, an inversion of Moore’s Bush-era anti-war film Fahrenheit 9/11. Borrowing from Russian intellectual Masha Gessen, he argues that the events of that day in 2001 pushed the US towards authoritarianism.
Moore still has fire in his gut. His heart is in the right place. However lopsided or rambling Fahrenheit 11/9 may be, its urgency and anger have palpable force.
IN CINEMAS NOW
This article was first published in the December 15, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
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