The act of filmmaking is a chance to unlock an infinite number of doors with a unique story that lies bhind each one. Once in a while, though, a filmmaker creates a product so brilliantly poignant that it makes you wonder if his contemporaries aren’t unlocking the wrong doors. Sometimes, they aren’t even in the right building.
Bowling for Columbine, a documentary about gun control by author and social activist Michael Moore (Roger & Me), is one of the best films to grace the silver screen in some time.
Moore begins his odyssey in Littleton, Colo. (the site of the Columbine High School shootings), and travels through urban neighborhoods of California and his hometown of Flint, Mich., all the while collecting footage of interviews and violent images involving guns in the United States. The end result provides an overall statement on the intrinsic paranoia instilled by the media that fuels the perpetual violence in America.
The footage that Moore gathered for this film is worth its weight in gold. There is scene after scene of violently compelling footage contrasted with beautiful songs from the likes of the Beatles and Louis Armstrong that exemplify the wry wit echoed throughout the film.
The interviews include members of the Michigan militia (former affiliates with Timothy McVeigh) – just your normal gun-toting business men and real estate agents. One outspoken member declares, “If you’re not armed, you’re not responsible.”
He also speaks with McVeigh’s cohort, James Nicholls, who was cleared of involvement with the bombing in Oklahoma City. The obviously militant and mentally unstable man, who is now a farmer, proclaims having personal nuclear weapons is within his rights as a U.S. citizen.
Such interviews and sound bytes as these ornament the film, providing the viewer with a terrifying and surreal vision of America’s naÃ¯ve view of gun control and violence.
Marilyn Manson and Matt Stone (South Park) provide cleverly insightful material on the subject of the Columbine shootings. They both said they think that society’s conformist pressure and listening deficiency echoed in the nation’s school system was instrumental in the teens’ vigilant attack.
Manson and Moore also point out the fact that the day of the Columbine shooting marked the day that our country dropped the most bombs at any time during the Kosovo crisis, killing hundreds of women and children. Then, the United States turns around and condemns these kids for what they did, saying that it was a mindless act of murder.
The finale of the film is an interview with actor Charlton Heston, president of the National Rifle Association. Overwhelmed by Moore’s questions about gun control and related deaths in the United States, Heston responds with vague and misinformed answers – especially when he blames the country’s ethnicity for the problem.
Bowling for Columbine is not limited to interviews, though. Moore includes a scene at a bank that gives out a free gun with every new account, a hilarious true cartoon of America and a visual timeline of the nation’s (seemingly endless) most vicious acts.
Moore’s excellent rhythm is aided by superb editing and intricate scene-linking. The only flaw of the film is that he says too much to the viewer, crossing an array of messages throughout the film.
Bowling for Columbine is a satirical masterpiece from a master of sarcasm and irony. And Moore makes his point undoubtedly clear.
Contact Nick Margiasso at firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Bowling for Columbine’ opens Friday and is rated R.