Bowling for Columbine,
121 mins, rated M, opens in cinemas 26 December 2002
Rated - SIMMERING
Don’t be deterred by the title: this film is not about bowling; it is
about gun control. “Columbine” is the high school in Littleton,
Colorado, where on 20 April 1999 two teenaged kids, Eric Harris and
Dylan Klebold, used high-powered rifles to kill 12 students and one
teacher. It appeared to be revenge for being considered
“different”. And bowling? The two boys went bowling before
they went on the shooting spree.
Michael Moore, who wrote, produced and directed this documentary, is
known for his blunt, confrontational style. His television
series, The Awful Truth, was shown recently on Australian
television. His most successful film until now, the documentary
Roger and Me, was made 13 years ago. Moore’s trademark technique
is to pursue corporate executives relentlessly, armed with a camera and
microphone, demanding explanations. Roger and Me was the
highest-grossing narrative documentary of all time and won many critics
awards. Bowling for Columbine looks set to eclipse that success.
Michael Moore might have made a good lawyer. He certainly knows
how to cross-examine. He cross-examines Charlton Heston,
President of the National Rifle Association, about the Constitutional
right to bear arms. Heston, perplexed, runs away from him.
And when he cross-examines James Nichols, the brother of Oklahoma City
bomber Terry Nichols, the results are scary.
Moore’s style can grate, though. His logic is all over the
place. He admits that he just takes a story wherever it
leads. Here he starts in a bank (which is also a gun dealership),
then examines the circumstances of the Columbine massacre, and moves on
to Flint, Michigan where he investigates the “Flint Militia” and a
shooting by a 6-year-old in elementary school. Later he gives us
a highly subjective, but amusing, animated history of gun-ownership in
the United States, and links all this with Kosovo and K-Mart. He
ends with a horrific montage of gun-related violence, culminating in
footage of the 2nd plane hitting the World Trade Centre, with Louis
Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World”. It’s inflammatory
stuff, and many of the connections are spurious. But Moore says that
the film is about the culture of fear in America, and how that leads to
acts of violence, domestically and internationally.
A final word of warning: this film is rated M but contains some
shocking scenes of violence and death. You won’t have time to
close your eyes. But then again, maybe we shouldn’t close our
eyes to this story. It could happen here.
© Michèle M Asprey 2003
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