Sunday, September 16, 2007

DEATH OF A PRESIDENT MOVIE REVIEW



















CAST: Does it matter? They didn’t know what they were doing anyhow.
DIRECTOR: GABRIEL RANGE
RATING: Out of my mortal and numerical capabilities.
RUNTIME: Clock said 90 min but my biological says something far more sinister.
GENRE: Supposed to be a thriller and a drama. How does “Broken Furniture” sound?

This morally bankrupt, dramatically lifeless and intellectually retarded film premiered at the Toronto film festival and won the International Critics Prize, for what is beyond the realms of my limited comprehensions, and managed to stir up a huge controversy resulting in bans of various intensities. Refused to be screened in two of America’s biggest cinema chains, Regal and Cinemark, the film faced screening difficulties in Japan too the reason being the inappropriateness of its translated title. The only thing I can congratulate the men behind, i.e. the producers (Simon Finch, Ed Guiney, Robin Gutch, Liza Marshall, Donall McCusker, Gabriel Range, Christina Varotsis) is for their success in stirring up this needless, ill-advised controversy, which I might add is very much the sole intention. Such films shouldn’t even be given one’s priceless attention, forget the individual reactions from United States senators including Ms. Hillary Clinton who commented- "I think it's despicable; I've never seen a movie so horrible in my life. I think it's absolutely outrageous. I mean, sure most people don't like Bush, but this is beyond bad. It's evil. That anyone would even attempt to profit on such a horrible scenario makes me sick." I agree Ms. Clinton but people in your esteemed position should not even bother to comment about such trash, a film akin to a moron running butt-naked into a football match to have his fifteen milliseconds of fame.
I had a unique interest in this project; this film came out about the same time last year I had written a story, the basic structure of a screenplay that has to deal with the assassination of a major political figure. Reading all the controversy and to my utter stupidity not caring to carefully read the reviews, I found myself buried under a lot of apprehension. Looking at the product, now that I’m long done with the script, I can’t help but laugh (I was laughing through the entire picture, for varied reasons though). And I’m relieved too.
I have often wondered; what gives some of these extremely average artists the license, what makes people whose very lives seem to be out of their control the right to talk heaps of garbage gift-wrapped as criticisms about things seemingly out of their limited comprehensions. Those who intend to do, do as we know and those who talk well, they just exercise their muscles and strain their brains. When true art criticizes power, it is an altogether different ballgame a one that is thought provoking like no other; this here is an insult to everyone involved. It is the in-thing; make hay while the sun shines, as I said, just like the naked man. Pointless exercise.
This pseudo-documentary (I have of lately tried to discourage the use of the term mockumentary) enacts fictitious events, like one of the History Channel documentaries, the assassination of U.S. President George Bush and its investigation. And just if thought this had something interesting here, forget about it, that’s the only trick they mustered. It almost feels as if Simon White and Range (co-screenwriters) watching Jfk, The History Channel documentary on Robert Kennedy’s assassination and came up with this idea to stir up some controversy. Poof, kill Bush. If you even have a passing interest in espionage thrillers and related documentaries on The History Channel and Discovery, everything here is big yawn.
Nothing here is remotely enlightening. The forensic expert, with all the expertise on phoning in he can muster, gives us “insightful” comment on fingerprints and how difficult it is to find one on guns. Of course, there’s no reason other than to sound detailed. Question: why not educate us about friction ridges, for you cannot possibly bore us any further? I was surprised they didn’t tell us more about the sniper rifle and try to bore us even more, just calling it an American made rifle (it seemed like an AR-15 to me). Then there’s a whole lot of world affairs rhetoric with Korea managing to make a guest appearance, they manage to show the missiles too. Reason: again, trying to be cool, politically informed. Everyone speaks unendingly with little to offer, the film drags needlessly. Anyone expecting an anatomy of an assassin will be disappointed, anyone expecting an anatomy of a manhunt will be disappointed, anyone expecting, especially, an anatomy of a kill will be disappointed, hell anyone expecting a decent political thriller will be disappointed. I was expecting, at least and perhaps foolishly, that they might tell us the method of the kill. But hey, that would need a commodity in short supply, something called the brains. As timidly as it can get, the exposure is that the Presidential plan was out in the hands of the assassin. And they’re looking for the culprit who sold it out. I exclaimed, that was expected.
One member sitting next to me, no offense to him, told to his friend on the other end of the mobile that this is a terrific film, a must watch film. My bewildered self wanted to ask him how was that but better sense prevailed. I failed to understand what was the film’s whole point, besides the obvious one that this is an exploitation film, like Cannibal Holocaust. Only that caters to audience with different tastes. Random images from Iraq are shown in another of the film’s numerous attempts at sensationalizing, whoa that is somebody’s misery and you’re making money out of it.

If the film wants to be an anti-war message, well there’s nothing remotely new here. If the film wants to show a state-of-affairs under siege, pressurized from multiple fronts then there’s nothing new there too, or for that matter nothing at all. Oswald might have been a good old fashioned patsy or for that matter Sirhan Sirhan too. Anyways that doesn’t have to do anything, even remotely, with Bush’s policies or for that matter GOP’s policies. Conspiracy theorists could argue that the men sentenced in May for the assassination of Zoran Djindjic were patsies too; patsies have always been there. All the film does is shout out loud the same old rhetoric shown far subtly in Inside Man and far poignantly in The Siege. I wonder what exact purpose is served by killing a real life person. Then there’s the desperate, ill-advised “he has a strong heart” attempt at creating a dramatic effect, probably inspired from the Reagan assassination. Larry Stafford (Brian Boland) generates a lot of unintended laughs when he tries to sentimentalize his failure. Suggestion: Kindly watch the National Geographic Channel on the Dogs in combat. The men there are bring tears to anybody.
This film isn’t brave, it is a coward. What would have been truly brave? Make the assassination a prologue and with a new President, say Dick Cheney, show what can be done in Iraq and the world as a whole. Show us what advice you have for that unfortunate part of the world. Or even braver, try and make a point that Bush is correct, his policy in Iraq is correct.
What would have been truly brave, truly intelligent- say what would a new President have done and how to stop the crisis. Or, convincing Bush is correct. But that is tough and light years beyond the capabilities of them. Everyone can shout “End the war”, but how does one do it? Everyone can pretend to be wise in hindsight but kindly try to advise before. Those men with power have responsibilities beyond most peoples’ comprehension. I’m not patronizing anybody here, but one shouldn’t make such shameful, morally reprehensible sensational comments just for the sake of limelight, an act that kills a living man forget the head of a state.
Neil Burger’s pseudo-documentary on the JFK assassination, Interview with the Assassin, although following a distantly similar line of sensationalism is thrilling. It always keeps us guessing, we’re constantly working our brains. Here, it is all dull. The filmmakers think that they have a twist-ending at their hands, it is more of a cheat and nobody could care less.
One thing, the film is technically good. The special effects of putting the people in, and shots comprising of real footage is, commendable. And I don’t want to dwell on it anymore. Watching the film, in the starting half an hour, I found myself confused sometimes whether to reflect the film in the political situation of the present or watching the phony melodrama being played out by the pseudo-interviews, try to feel the narration for it is a mystery and a stupid one at that. And then I realized, I was being exploited real badly. I could have watched real histories mysteries and learn and not even pay any price of the admission ticket. Those documentaries, catering to all genres some of them boasting of brilliant filmmaking and you feel one hour of your life well spent. I had been duped. And yeah, just so I didn’t happen to be clear the film crosses the line, sorry thunders past the line.
(I beg everybody to kindly follow the link here of award winning journalist and filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s website (http://www.sharmeenobaidfilms.com/) for this is real, not some sham exploitative pseudo-footage but powerful human stories, stories that are heart-breaking and dying to be heard by the world. CNN is currently airing her latest film, Lifting the Veil.)

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