Bowling for Columbine

In one of the few negative reviews of Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore’s brilliant and disturbing new documentary on American gun culture, Desson Howe of the Washington Post writes: “A lot of this is amusing and somehow telling. But what does it all add up to?” I’m not sure Moore knows the answer himself, but I don’t see that as a reason to slag this movie. After the Columbine massacre in 1999, Moore went to Littleton CO to learn more about life there and to meet some of the surviving students. Along the way, he introduces us to a number of individuals, displays statistics, and shares graphic images, some at times incredibly disturbing. For me, this is where the power of the film lies.

In the most startling and unnerving sequence, Moore splits the screen into a quad, and in each section plays video from one of four surveillance cameras at Columbine High. Sitting in a packed theatre, no one could move in their seats. I could barely breathe. Thinking about it now, I’m at a loss for words to describe how I felt.

Moore likes to get in the face of some of his subjects, including Dick Clark (who slams a van door on him) and Charlton Heston, leader of the NRA. Heston walks away from Moore in mid-interview, when Moore (foolishly in my estimation) asks Heston if he’d apologize to residents of Littleton and Flint MI (also Moore’s hometown) for staging NRA rallies in those cities after school shootings. In Flint’s case, a 6-year old boy killed a 6-year old girl. I think Moore could do better, but he is relentless in his drive, and I admire him for that. Moore also interviews Marilyn Manson, and James Nichols, the brother of Terry Nichols, who with Timothy McVeigh, conspired to bomb the building in Oklahoma City in April 1995.

The film leaves you with the unanswered question: why do Americans kill so frequently with guns. I don’t know if we’ll ever learn the answer(s). ****1/2

2 Responses to “Bowling for Columbine”

  1. jennifer Says:

    I went on Saturday night and saw it and agree with what you have to say. My biggest qualm about it was how good canada looked. I mean, yeah, we have relatively few gun related homicides, but we have some. I also lived in Windsor and can tell you it is one scary city where we locked our doors and had bars on the windows because we lived just under the bridge connecting Detroit. There were some scary things that happened when I lived there.

  2. Mike Says:

    American’s kill with guns because they have them at hand. And don’t forget, there are a hell of a lot of Americans. So we see the results of all the mayhem on a larger scale, lovingly reported by the sensationalist media. We have violence in Canada too, but people tend to recover from knife wounds. I’ve never had occasion to be scared in the U.S. because of guns.

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