[MOVIE REVIEW]Moore’s documentary strikes gold, spares noneAmerica has a lot of guns. So does Canada. America has much historical blood on its hands. So does Germany. America has lost the nuclear family. The United Kingdom’s divorce rate is higher.
Then what makes America, compared to other developed countries, a hotbed for gun-related violence? Michael Moore searches for answers in a touching, humorous, sobering and at times distasteful documentary about gun violence.
“Bowling for Columbine,” the recent Academy Award winner for best documentary, has the weight and the wonder of a boy’s fantasy. It’s imaginative, full of questions, distractions and some far-fetched reasoning. Moore is a member of the National Rifle Association, and his questioning sometimes comes across like a child who has just realized his parents’ fallibility.
At the same time, with Moore at the helm and at the center of much of the action, the movie at times feels self-promotional. “Bowling for Columbine” can tend to resemble a novel where the omnipresent narrator flaunts his superior intelligence.
In one scene, Moore brings two victims of the Columbine High School shooting to the K-Mart chain’s headquarters. The bullets that are still lodged in the students’ bodies were bought at a K-Mart for 17 cents each. When a public-relations official rebuffs them, Moore returns the next day, like Puff Daddy, rolling with a posse of camera-wielding reporters. The camera films Moore being filmed by this posse. Is Moore creating a documentary about himself?
The international release of the movie couldn’t be more appropriate, coming at the heels of a U.S.-waged war against Iraq. The America that “Bowling for Columbine” shows is full of contradictions ― some trite, others unexpected ― such as single mothers working two jobs to make ends meet, elementary school-age killers, an eloquent Marilyn Manson, an arrogant Dick Clark, the CIA training of Osama bin Laden, the bombing of the World Trade Center.
It’s the unexpected moments that make “Bowling for Colum-bine” special. The film begins on an ordinary day at a bank in Michigan, the state where Moore was born. At this bank, you can get a free gun if you open an account. It turns out the bank is also a licensed gun dealer.
Moore also interviews James Nichols, the brother of Terry Nichols, who’s in jail for helping Timothy McVeigh bomb the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. At one point Nichols, who sleeps with a gun under his pillow and makes his own tofu, says, “The pen is mightier than the sword, but every man should have a sword, just in case.”
Whether you like or dislike Moore, the movie he has made is remarkably intelligent and thought-provoking. Moore doesn’t answer all the questions he poses, but the questions he poses are riveting.
by Joe Yong-hee