For the first time ever, the Cannes Film Festival has awarded a special Jury Prize to a documentary. That honor goes to filmmaker Michael Moore and his new thought-provoking picture, “Bowling for Columbine.”
This movie, currently playing downtown at the Little Theatre, explores America’s fascination with guns. Running over two hours, the film explores school shootings, the Oklahoma City Bombings, the NRA, Michigan Militia and “Cops.”
Moore also interviews an exotic spectrum of entertainment figures including rocker Marilyn Manson, perennial New Year’s host Dick Clark, South Park co-creator Matt Stone and actor and NRA chairman Charlton Heston.
The film does come with an “R” rating, due to the large portions of violent content. This includes graphic depictions of real-life assassinations, security footage of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris in the Littleton attacks and a video of the second plane hitting the twin towers.
Several portions of the film stand out, including a short “South Park”-esque animated feature on the history of United States with specific emphasis on solving problems using guns.
In a more serious segment, the filmmaker accompanies two Columbine victims to K-Mart headquarters and successfully petitions the company to stop selling bullets.
The film’s title refers to the bowling class at Columbine High School that both killers attended the morning of the massacre. During the initial aftermath of the attacks, many media outlets pointed a finger at goth musicians such as Marilyn Manson.
However, as Moore points out, who is to say that bowling wasn’t responsible?
Moore’s unique style of comedic, human documentaries began with his acclaimed 1989 “Roger & Me” which focused on GM downsizing his hometown of Flint, Michigan.
He’s gone on to produce two television shows — “TV Nation” and “The Awful Truth” — as well as several books — “Downsize This!,” “Stupid White Men” — and the 1995 comedic motion picture “Canadian Bacon.”
However, this expos definitely goes further and covers more ground than his previous material does. It also avoids some of his most liberal philosophy, instead concentrating on the topics at hand.
Some say that laughter comes from human frailty. Perhaps that can explain why such serious subjects can be analyzed in a comedic documentary.
Unfortunately, “Bowling for Columbine” ultimately does not come to any specific conclusions about what creates the culture of gun violence in America. Unlike some of his earlier exposs on corporate downsizing, the standard answer of “greed” does not simply explain away the problem.
Comparisons with Canada and Europe are relevant and intriguing — for instance, Canada has more guns per capita than the U.S. — yet do not succeed in clearly establishing why the U.S. has so many gun deaths a year while other countries have so few.
Despite these weaknesses, “Bowling for Columbine”‘s stunning mixture of violent images, unusual interviews and tongue-in-cheek humor makes this motion picture a must-see.