July 25, 2004

Is Michael Moore like Leni Riefenstahl?

The BBC reports on the reaction to "Fahrenheit 9/11" in Poland:
Gazeta Wyborcza reviewer Jacek Szczerba called the film a "foul pamphlet".

He said it was too biased to be called a documentary and was similar to work by Nazi propaganda director Leni Riefenstahl.

But politicians opposed to the country's involvement in the US-led occupation of Iraq have urged people to see the film.

"In criticising Moore, I have to admit that he has certain abilities - Leni Riefenstahl had them too," Mr Szczerba said in his review.

"Michael Moore will not convince Poles with his film," the Rzeczpospolita newspaper said in its review.

"People are very sensitive to aggressive propaganda, especially when it pretends to be an objective documentary or a work of art."

It is heartening to see that exposure to propaganda breeds resistance to it.

There are many huge differences between Moore and Leni Riefenstahl, though. Quite aside from the fact that she was working in support of Hitler and Moore is working against Bush (and Bush is no Hitler, despite some noise to the contrary), Riefenstahl would have snorted at the lack of artistry in Moore's work. She was all about beautiful and precise visual imagery. "Triumph of the Will" does not pound at you with voiceover assertions, it aims to lure you and seduce you with sequences of images. Moore's type of propaganda is far, far easier to resist, because it is immediately and constantly apparent that he is propagandizing. That is a lot fairer to the viewer: your resistance is instantly activated. You can decide what you want to think. What Riefenstahl did was incomparable.

I highly recommend the documentary "The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl" to anyone who is interested in the manipulation of political opinion and anyone who is interested in the intersection of art and politics. There is also an excellent Criterion Collection DVD of "Triumph of the Will" with historian commentary, which one ought to find difficult to bring oneself to buy but is genuinely important to watch. This film is always talked about loosely, as in the Polish reviews cited above, but, as in those reviews, people don't seem to have seen it or don't remember what they saw.

1 comment:

Mark81150 said...

"is Moore a Leni Riefenstahl?"

Probably not, but he certainly aspires to be for the left. Ham Fisted best describes his "style" beat you over the head with blunt propaganda, then scream and name call if you reject it.. His recent meltdown after the election, bashing voters as morons because they didn't buy into the media spin..