Monday, August 13, 2007

Death of a President (Range, 2006)

Much to my surprise, Gabriel Range’s faux-documentary, Death of a President, which considers what might happen in the wake of a successful assassination attempt on George W. Bush, is not the kind of wild-eyed, irresponsible shock-piece that I had anticipated. On the contrary, it is thoroughly engrossing speculation that concisely sums up the major tensions brewing in the United States at this time and suggests that the country, with Bush serving as a lightning rod, is not only a target of intense external aggression, but also is home to an alarming amount of internal discontent and anger. The filmmakers wisely steer clear of the sort of Bush ridicule that has become de rigeur over the past six years. Yet, at the same time, they create an accurate picture of the man, folksy bravado and ideological stubbornness intact.

Fittingly, the investigation that follows, headed up by President Cheney – I’ll give you a moment to shudder – falls into the same kind of methodological errors that have led to disaster in Iraq, namely letting a conclusion precede evidence rather than evidence leading to a conclusion. What is most admirable about the film is the way that it proceeds without concern for who will take offense. Political advisors, dissidents and talking heads alike are drawn with flaws exposed, but very little registers as being unfair or false. It’s quite possible that we are too close to the subject of Range’s film for it to receive wide appreciation. I suspect that it will be the sort of film that will gain more support with time. It seems to me that the film has been hastily dismissed for reasons that will not be important to those who will watch it in the future. Beyond the startling premise, this is a film that effectively captures the feeling of the age, wrapping post-9/11 paranoia, governmental distrust and Katrina outrage into one potent package.



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