Saturday, May 13, 2006
Most Important Filmmaker Working Today
Michael Moore -- director of Roger & Me, Bowling for Columbine, and Fahrenheit 9/11 -- is the most important filmmaker working today. At a time when the directors of narrative features seem to have lost their way, (gone are the glory days of Coppola, Scorsese, Kubrick and Lynch) and no distinctive voices are penetrating through the blandness of contemporary cinema, Moore's brand of subjective, first-person documentary filmmaking has not only created a new genre of documentary, it has, in many ways, made the documentary a more vital form of filmmaking, perhaps for the first time in film history. Now, that's not to say there were no important documentaries being made before Moore starting making them. But Moore's larger-than-life persona has given the documentary film genre its first superstar. In 1989, I attended the National Board of Review Awards ceremony in New York, where Roger & Me was being honored as Best Documentary, and as Moore passed by me in the lobby of the building on the way to the event, I sensed then he had the presence to make it big. But the fact he went on to become the most popular documentary filmmaker of all time is not the reason I suggest he is the most important. Celebrity alone is not what Moore is about. Certainly his popularity helps. But the topics Moore decides to make films about are subjects vitally important to the future well being of this country, perhaps even the world. Bowling for Columbine, which won the Best Documentary Oscar, and in many ways, its unofficial sequel Fahrenheit 9/11, winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, both attempt to illuminate, educate and reveal underlying aspects of our society and government of which many choose to remain ignorant. There was a time when films such as Midnight Cowboy, The Graduate, and Apocalypse Now could reveal such societal truths. Those days are gone. Moore has been able to latch onto the current "reality based" entertainment fascination and turn the media back on itself. It is astounding how Moore and his team are able to cull through mountains of news clips to find the images and the sounds which support the thesis of the given film. The editing of Moore's films is second to none in its brilliance and ability to sway the viewer. Like any great filmmaker, Moore is a master manipulator. But so be it! When you cut through the subjectivity, these are among the most crucial films being distributed today.