Call it going out on a limb, but I think Michael Moore has the Palme d’Or all sewn up at Cannes.
How can I say this without ever having seen Moore’s Farenheit 9/11, which is set to have its World Premiere at the Cannes Film Festival? How can I make this bold, possibly foolish prediction without ever having seen so much as a trailer for the film? Because if there is one thing that Cannes has proven over the years, it is that politics always trumps art.
Regardless of the quality of the film, the veracity of its arguments, or even the naration of the documentary, one thing we all know is that there is a veracious hunger in Europe (and around the world) for political amunition that can be thrown against the United States. Justified or not, the reason for the hunger is largely unimportant. What is important is the fact that, should my blind, unstudied prediction turn out to be right, Moore’s triumph will be another signal that political propaganda is the surest way to guarantee success for an otherwise unremarkable film concept, as long as the slant of your film matches the political vogue of trendy cinema-culture.
Even without seeing this movie, we can all make a strong guess as to what to expect. Farenheit 9/11 is the brainchild of Michael Moore, after all, who’s creativity is matched only by his subtlety, objectivity, and reputation for objectivity. Excuse me while I wipe the sarcasm from my face.
If his past works are any clue, Farenheit 9/11 will attempt to play on the emotions of the viewer, all the while offering seletcive opinions that, amazingly, will serve to confirm Moore’s own prejudices while offering little to challenge his assumptions. In order to make his case, Moore will offer clips with three types of subjects: The Sympathetic Victim (either family members of those impacted by the trajedy who agree with Moore’s opinion, or survivors who have “come to their senses”), The Heroic Expert (persons involved in foreign policy, government, rescue work, or the military who heroicly champion ideas which have been squashed by an obviously narrow minded and nefarious administration), and the Idiot Adversary (persons who support Bush policies or a right wing agenda, who will either be selected because they are not the brightest bulbs in the drawer or who will be made to appear less-than-clever through Moore’s trademark use of creative editing, a la patching several Charlton Heston speeches together to create the illusion of an angry, violence loving, columbine victims hating, crazy loon). If he’s feeling particularly keen, Moore will also offer us The Unfortunate Pawn (people who have had their lives or their wills crushed by the foolish, short sighted decisions of some right wing group, most likely the administration) all the while offering the audience clever bon mots that require little thought but which will arouse self-satisfied chuckles of agreement from the audience.
Say what you will about him, Moore knows his audience. Like a preacher who earnestly coaxes agreement from his flock by stating “The Devils is Bad, isn’t he?? Baaaaad!” Moore understands exactly that he only has to say what his audience already wants to hear. There aren’t a lot of people going to Michael Moore films for a nuanced, balanced view of an issue. His audience consists mainly of curious drop-ins (they pay when they come in, so who cares if they stay) or eager idealogues who already agree and just want to hear the same message one more time (give ’em what they want, and they’ll come back for more).
Maybe my prediction will fall flat on its face. That’s certainly a very real possibility since I don’t know anything about the film other than title, director, and general topic matter. But knowing Cannes and knowing how self-serving opinions can be, will it be at all surprising if the prediction turns out to be right? After all, who needs a good movie when you can have a cause instead. If Cannes has taught us anything, it is that cynicism is more robust than cinema.