|Bowling For Columbine
2002 - R - 120 Mins.
|Director: Michael Moore
|Producer: Michael Moore, Kathleen Glynn, Jim Czarnecki, Charles Bishop (II), Michael Donovan, Charles Bishop
|Written By: Michael Moore
|Starring: Michael Moore, Marilyn Manson, George W. Bush, Dick Clark, Charlton Heston
|Review by: David Trier
Documentaries are very difficult to review. Unless they’re simply boring, the only thing to discuss is whether or not you agree with the filmmakers viewpoint. The acting is irrelevant. The cinematography is a nice touch but not that important. And the story - well, there is no story. It’s a documentary. I can go on and on about how much I loved this movie, but unlike most films that I expect the reader to take my word for, this one has to be seen. Every warm-blooded, oxygen breathing, baby nursing, hair-covered, altogether mammalian American has to see this movie.
In Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore, our author and host, takes us on a journey to study gun violence in America. He asks, how is it that with all the poverty, unemployment, crime and access to guns that most every country in the world has, America is the gun death capital of the planet? Weapon manufacturers, distributors and advocates like Lockheed Martin, K Mart, and Charlton Heston (not necessarily in that order) often find themselves at a loss for words when confronted with Moore’s straight forward sense of reason.
Highlights of the film include Moore accompanying two now-disabled Columbine students to K Mart headquarters to request the corporation stop selling ammunition, a hilarious cartoon about America’s history of fear, and a horrifyingly accurate montage of US foreign policy aggression leading up to 9/11. And here’s part of the problem with such a bold and important documentary. Those whose eyes have been sewn shut by a lifetime of American public education or glazed over by generations of corporate-sponsored television news may have a little trouble seeing Moore as anything but another lefty with an agenda. And in some respect, it is obvious what his agenda is. And unfortunately, the dissemination of truthful information is something often frowned upon - particularly by a culture that sees no problem with the Pentagon financing Jerry Bruckheimer. For those whose eyes have been stapled open by a little thing I like to call reading books and caring, this film is likely to make you angry about pursuing your ultimately insignificant career instead of devoting your life to activism.
The film is at times very funny, but has no problem switching gears without warning and triggering salty fluid to burst from your eyes. Moore is careful to make this a documentary of exploration, asking questions and encouraging us to ask more, but never claiming to have the answer himself. He’s as mystified and confused as we are, but he’s not afraid to knock on Charlton Heston’s door. This can be a little disappointing, because the subject matter makes us feel so vulnerable, we want him to give us a metaphorical hug and tell the solution. But he can’t. Like the important Roger and Me, one of the most successful documentaries of all time, Bowling for Columbine quickly reminds us that seemingly insignificant individuals are the ones that pay for broad political and cultural flaws.
So it’s like this. I loved it and found it empowering, but then I already knew about most of it. And that which I didn’t already know fit well into my philosophical pattern. However, when we’re confronted with things we don’t already know, we often react in fear and that fear, particularly when it comes to movies, translates into dismissal. That’s unfortunate, since it means not everyone will go see this movie. As expected, not everyone will even show this movie. Even though Bowling for Columbine won a unanimous jury prize at Cannes, it’s about as widely released in America as a Chomsky lecture. Regal Cinemas, the country’s largest exhibitor, has banned it altogether.