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Rambling to the Slaughter ('Bowling for Columbine')
Last uploaded : Monday 13th Jan 2003 at 01:51
Contributed by : Alexander Walker



(Photograph: Michael Moore)

Review by Alexander Walker of The Evening Standard

'Bowling For Columbine'
cert15 Michael Moore, Charlton Heston, Marilyn Manson.

Dir: Michael Moore. US. 2002. 120min
On general release UK

First, that title. Columbine refers to the high school in Littleton, Colorado, where 12 students and a teacher were gunned down by classmates in April 1999. In Michael Moore's film, we see their slaughter as it happened, taken directly off CCTV. The random casualness is what horrifies, as the two kids ramble - yes, ramble -through library and classrooms picking off cowering students as if they were just taking gentle exercise.

The Bowling bit of the title is harder. Moore's agitprop doc on gunowning in America justifies it by observing that the two young shooters went bowling on the morning of their killing spree. The connection is, of course, mock ironic. America's love affair with the gun does not depend on locating a better kind of ten-pins.

Moore is a man in love with the Big Truth and while he sometimes compresses truth selectively, it generally fits what he wants to find "out there". Which is: banks that are licensed firearms dealers and let new customers pick a free gun from the 500-weapon arsenal in the vaults; a frontier tradition of shooting first and asking questions later that's now become a main plank of US foreign-policy; a "fear culture" promoted by Hollywood's violent films and the rap artists' inciteful lyrics that make people think their end is nigh unless they have a protective gun within easy reach; the skewed patriotism of the Second Amendment's "right to bear arms"; and the naturally high incidence of All-American nutcases like shock-rock artist Marilyn Manson.

In his trap-loaded quizzing, using his bumpkin's baseball cap as a decoy for unwary answers, Moore himself can be guilty of the scattergun approach. Information spews out of his motormouth commentary: 68 gun-related deaths a year in the UK, 165 in Canada, 11,127 in the US.

But he can't help hitting bull'seyes, especially sitting-bulls'-eyes. Charlton Heston unwisely slides open his electronic gates to allow Moore an interview with the National Rifle Association's star cheerleader. His needling routs Heston utterly, leaves speechless the man who spoke with the tongue of Moses, walking arthritically off, not even deigning to glance at the picture of a child murdered by a guncrazy perp.

I attribute to this single devastating interview the announcement, just before Moore's film premiered, that Heston has a degenerative disease: it may have been a sympathy-seeking face-saver.

Moore finds much black humour in his country's pathology, but occasionally uses publicity to flex real muscle. He accompanies a wheel-chair survivor of Columbine to confront K-Mart top execs and shames that chain store into ending the sale of bullets.

What it loses in indiscriminate fire, or the occasional set-up that backfires, Bowling for Columbine redeems with the vast volume of testimony it records about the high value put on gun-owning and the related low price of human life. A hit, a palpable hit!
JewishComment is grateful to The Evening Standard for allowing us to publish Alex Walker's review. please visit The Evening Standard:



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