Political Film Review #573

Michael Moore goes negative in Fahrenheit 11/9, attacking Donald Trump, former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, and the Democratic establishment. Moore begins with the tears of Hillary Clinton supporters on election night 2016 contrasted with the sober expression of winner Donald Trump.

Bill Clinton is lambasted for privatizing prisons, cutting welfare, and deregulating banks. Obama’s campaign donation from Goldman Sacks is used to explain his timidity in dealing with Wall Street. Obama’s prosecutions of whistleblowers and massive deportations also are featured. But much of the time Snyder is front and center, especially his refusal to acknowledge lead in Flint’s drinking water because he had the water source switched from pure Lake Huron to the polluted Flint River, resulting in deaths and brain damage to a city mostly African American. Yet when he learned that the lead was endangering an auto plant, he allowed the Huron water into the auto plant, not the water for the people of Flint. Snyder’s most Hitlerite move was the “emergency” legislation that allowed him to take control of Detroit, Flint, and a few other cities to override local government. Moore implies that before the pure water was restored to the people, Obama arrived to congratulate Snyder by openly drinking Flint water. Trump almost gets off the hook, though his racial prejudice is displayed in several scenes, especially his opposition to protests by football players, taking a page from Hitler’s playbook. Scenes of Hitler also give the impression that he was Trump’s role model.

The positive message is that gun control rallies yielded a Florida law while teacher demonstrations resulted in increased pay for school workers, not just teachers, and spread to Oklahoma and elsewhere. He interviews a few candidates for office who appeal to those misled into thinking that Trump was on their side. He also pushes an agenda of Medicare for all. Although Bernie Sanders occupies little film footage, Moore is clearly his supporter, angry that the Democratic establishment, which padded convention votes with superdelegates for Clinton, is obsessed with compromise in Congress. In short, the film urges Democrats to move left. No effort is undertaken to persuade Republicans, who evidently are perceived as a lost cause. MH

Directed by Emmanuel Finkiel, the film focuses on Marguerite Duras (played by Mélanie Thierry), whose husband Robert Antelme (Émmanuel Bourdieu) is arrested as a member of the French Resistance during World War II. Marguerite takes his clothes to the authorities so that he will have something to wear while incarcerated and meets an agent of the German occupation, Pierre Robier (Benoît Magimel), who not only promises that the clothing will be sent to her husband but also wants to keep in touch with her about new developments regarding his imprisonment, seemingly interested in a relationship with her. Marguerite’s repeated contact with Robier has an ulterior motive—to get her to rat on other members of the Resistance in exchange for better treatment of her husband. She refuses the gambit but feels obligated to see Robier so that nothing untoward will happen to her husband. But as the Allied armies win, Robier tries to make the case that he was a gentleman, not deserving of postwar punishment. Then prisoners are released to her friends, but she is in suspense about the condition of her husband. The waiting period turns out to be more agonizing for audiences than the Resistance era, when she had a lot of support from friends. She does finally see her husband, who has changed a lot from the experience. A famous writer, she kept a careful diary of her experiences that later provided the basis for the 1985 novel La Douleur. MH