Manufacturing Dissent: Uncovering Michael Moore
Yeurgh. Cover him back up! My eyes! My eyes!
You cannot, surely, have had more than a passing interest in politically tinged cinema over the last few years and not be aware of Michigan's finest, Michael Moore. The uncovering of which the title speaks thankfully refers to the man's body of work, rather than his actual body. Phew, eh readers?
Fronted by Canadian film/telly maker Debbie Melnyk, this follows Moore from a distance as he promotes Bowling for Columbine and later Fahrenheit 9/11. From a distance as despite repeated requests there's never a real interview (and of course, chance for rebuttal) with Michael Moore. This is either evidence of an obvious conspiracy to hide the truth, or of a guy that happens to be pretty busy. Pay your money, take your chances.
While it makes for an interesting narrative, there's no charges here that haven't been made in the past. However, if you haven't heard them before, and to be fair they've hardly been shouted from the rooftops, then the contents of Manufacturing Dissent are going to be somewhere between jaw-dropping and infuriating. Essentially, without going into the gory details as there's plenty of other websites dedicated to that sort of thing, the problem with calling Moore's output documentary in nature is, well, that it plainly isn't. From editing footage out of what us squares would call linear time into something more akin to a Alejandro Gonz?lez I??rritu film to excising events completely then denying having done so, there's a fair few serious breaches of trust between any audience that went in looking for truth rather than a story.
There's also a few silly ad hominem barbs that are frankly beneath the subject matter and the creators. Some people don't think he's a very nice person! Big whoop. I'll lay decent odds on some people disliking you, missy. There's several fairly wild-eyed claims of him being paranoid to the point of psychosis, which is a big ask to take seriously on your supporting evidence of, um, nada, even had it came from a psychiatrist. You'll have to pardon me if I don't take the claim seriously if it comes from a film critic. Although, to be fair, there is some damning evidence on film of this as said film critic rudely dismisses Canadian Bacon as a rank amateur, piss-poor effort and Moore gets a little shirty for a minute or two before slipping back into amiability. ALERT THE ASYLUM!
Really, if this is as good a character assassination as the makers could come up with they ought not to have bothered. After all, it's deeply reminiscent of the cheap stunts played by Moore on a doddering Charlton Heston in Bowling For Columbine which the film rightly pillories Moore for. There's other Moore-isms that creep in, which is perhaps intended as secret irony, but rather undermines the premises on which it's based. The film crew bluff their way into a rally on faked press credentials. Fair enough, but when busted for it and turfed out for filming at times they specifically aren't allowed to film at, you'd think they'd been threatened with a trip to Guantanamo. Whine whine whine free speech, whine whine whine, while the "it's sad the world has come to this" chords are overlaid over the protests as though democracy itself was under direct threat. Jings. You were busted doing something you shouldn't and got turfed out by security. It's not 'evidence' of any goddamn thing at all, although you wouldn't think it watching the film. Which is just the sort of beef you have with Moore.
This is all starting to sound a little more argumentative than I'd intended, as after all I'm in broad agreement with the tenets of the film, although not to the extent of some of the indefensibly silly positions some of the correspondents here hold. Essentially, you can trust Moore to present and select facts to support his arguments while conveniently downplaying others just as well as any of the politicians he frequently goes after. Despite that, I still find myself more often than not in agreement with Moore's eventual political stance, so it does rather become a question of whether his ends justify his means, which is something you'll have to answer for yourself.
This film does need to be made. It isn't an out and out, Republican backed attack vehicle, although it's far from completely balanced. There's a faintly cynical undertone to the piece, as any attempts to portray this as a public service, attempting to puncture the bubble of celebrity the film accuses Moore of seeking to sustain for himself is, of course, a bid to further the filmmaker's own career, and indeed celebrity. Hollywood's a funny old town.
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 4/5 TippyMarks.