Saturday, August 9, 2008

Deeper into Movies 3

What was all the Fuss About? - Death of a President

We watched the Mondo Cane "documentaries" where it was impossible to tell the fake newsreel footage of atrocities and executions from the real. And we rather liked it that way. Our willing complicity in this blurring of truth and reality in the Mondo Cane films alone make them possible and was taken up by the entire media landscape, by politicians and churchment.

- J. G. Ballard, Miracles of Life

Death of a President is more of a technical achievement than the grand political statement it was cracked up to be. Manipulating footage to make Dick Cheney sound like he's giving GWP's eulogy (admittedly the phrase President Cheney sent shivers down my spine) was pretty impressive, and the overall tone managed to avoid any faux-ironic giveaways. But what really was all the fuss about? Is it really that much of a shock to learn that a person from Syria with some roughly unsavoury connections somewhere in his past would be more-or-less framed into being found guilty, to be scapegoated? That a Gulf War veteran suffering from PTSD would feel resentment, or, good heavens, even anger that his son(s) or daughter(s) died for oil a second time?

Or was it that the fictionalized documentary seemed so seamleesly done that, yes indeed, it looked real, the very definition of the simulacrum? But don't we know all about that already? Known it for sometime, almost bored stiff with the idea that "Reality" is nothing here but the recordings?

Beyond the undeniable jouissance of GWB getting his just desserts, and the wearily omniscient sense that, had George the Younger actually been assassinated, things would probably have been much, much worse than the film predicts, this movie doesn't really tell us anything particularly new or shocking. A technical masterpiece absolutely, but hollow - iin the same way that, at a different register, Borat was both funny and obvious at the same time (rednecks and fratboys have retrograde attitudes vis-a-vis women and ethnic minorities, crickey, who'd 've thought?!)

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