Alexandra Kerry, daughter of the US Presidential candidate John F. Kerry, in Cannes at the opening of the new film "Fahrenheit 9/11" by Michael Moore.
CANNES.--Michael Moore brought his own shock-and-awe campaign to Cannes on Monday, embarking on a daylong offensive as he presided over the world premiere of his "Fahrenheit 9/11," which takes a critical look at President Bush, his family's ties to Saudi Arabia, his response to Sept. 11 and his decision to wage war on Iraq.
At its 4 p.m. screening In Competition at the Palais, the movie occasioned an enthusiastic standing ovation--onlookers placed it at 15-20 minutes--punctuated by cries of "bravo!" The crowd included a phalanx of Endeavor agents, led by Ari Emmanuel, along with Mick Jagger, Daryl Hannah and a smattering of French stars and industry insiders.
"It was the longest standing ovation I've seen in over 25 years," said Harvey Weinstein, whose Miramax Films funded the project over the objections of parent company Walt Disney Co. and who has an exec producer credit on the film, along with Miramax's Agnes Mentre.
Because Harvey and Bob Weinstein have not yet completed the deal to personally buy the film back from Disney, they have not yet struck a deal for a new distributor. On the Croisette, speculation over who will eventually snatch the distribution rights, even under the tough terms that the Weinsteins are said to be commanding, rages: The betting Monday had Lions Gate in first position, though such other contenders as Focus Features, Newmarket Films and ThinkFilm also are believed to be in contention.
Said Weinstein: "Things are being worked out. It will be announced shortly."
Moore predicted at an afternoon news conference: "This film will be seen in the United States before the election; I have no fear of that. There is no distributor as we speak today. It will have a distributor, and I'm completely confident that Miramax is going to be sure that Americans will see the film."
The movie, which is so up to date that it includes footage from the recent 9/11 Commission hearings, could undergo some changes before it is released if news developments warrant.
"Miramax has given us the funds and the ability if we need to before the film opens in America to update it and keep it right up to the moment," Moore said. "Right now, it is a finished film, it is a completed work, but I am able in the next six weeks before it is released to change it if I need to do that."
Although Moore, whose last film, "Bowling for Columbine" picked up an Oscar as well as $120 million in worldwide revenue from all sources, emphasized that he made the movie -- a political broadside -- first and foremost to entertain audiences, he admitted that he also hopes it will influence the upcoming election. Confronted with the movie's revelations, audiences "are going to be in shock, and they are going to be in awe, and they are going to respond accordingly," he predicted.
Whatever the eventual audience demand for the movie, the Cannes want-to-see was enormous. Reps for the filmmaker quickly lined up two early-morning screenings at the Olympia. The two press screenings at the Palais saw long lines snaking down the staircases as journalists jostled for admission.
On the opening night, Michael Moore received a standing, 20-minute ovation, the biggest in the decades-long history of the Cannes Film Festival.
During his session with the press, Moore barely mentioned Disney, with which he appeared locked in battle last week. Instead, he trained his metaphoric guns on Bush.
Asked by one journalist to respond to Bush's comments last week that the servicemen who took part in the Abu Ghraib prison atrocities lack character, the director responded, "George W. Bush and his ilk, they actually despise our troops. Only someone who despises our young people -- who offer to serve and protect our country and give up their lives if necessary -- (would) send them to war based on a lie. (That) is the worst violation of trust you could have and the worst way to treat our troops. He is against our troops; he has put them in harm's way for no good reason other than to line the pockets of his friends and benefactors."
While some journalists complained that the movie provides no surprises for those who have followed the growing criticism of the war closely -- it draws, for instance, from material cited in "House of Bush, House of Saud," by Craig Unger, who appears on camera in the film -- Moore argued that it serves plenty of new information and footage that will prove startling to moviegoers.
One sequence, for example, shot for Moore by free-lancers in Iraq, shows American soldiers in the field humiliating Iraqi detainees. "You've not seen footage and photographs outside the prisons," Moore said. "This occurred in the field. This occurred outside the prison walls. That is disgraceful."
It also includes interviews with soldiers voicing opposition to the war. "I don't think you've seen American soldiers in the field talk the way they talk in the film -- of their disillusionment, of their despair, of their questioning of what is going on," Moore said. "Those were brave words to say to the camera."
For all its poignant moments, "Fahrenheit" also includes plenty of laughs -- mostly at Bush's expense. "This time, I was the straight man," Moore said, "and Bush had all the funniest lines."
Copyright 2004 West-Art, Prometheus 92/2004