Film: An inconvenient truth - Livre d'Or

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Film: An inconvenient truth
Tuesday, 27 November 2007 at 09:31 am

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Reasons for watching it: It seems to be a big part of the memetic landscape these days, and I care about the subject matter.

Circumstances of watching it: It was being shown at a meeting of the Jewish - Christian dialogue group, which I do want to get into, so it seemed like a good opportunity. The group was so recognizable as an interfaith group; the late middle-aged Christians radiating respectability, the rather older Jews of a particular generation plus a smattering of younger idealists (it's heartening that there are at least some of those). I felt right at home.

It wasn't very useful as an interfaith event; the film plus the faffing about getting the equipment set up took so long that there was only 10 minutes left for discussion. And the discussion consisted of a Catholic environmentalist telling us how several German churches have raised money to fit solar panels to their buildings, and our emeritus rabbi telling us about the principles of not destroying and not hurting living creatures. Oh, and a question from the floor which wasn't really a question, but a Survivor rambling on about how he was unable to forgive a certain Nazi officer who killed several of his friends in front of him. This stuff is important, sure, but it was absolutely off topic and there wasn't anything useful anyone could say.

I wish we could have discussed the film, or at least had a more in depth discussion of environmental issues in Judaism and Christianity. So I'm hoping you guys will have something to say about the review anyway.

Verdict: An inconvenient truth is almost too rhetorically polished.

I think this film is in many ways a victim of its own success. It is a superlatively good piece of rhetoric, but the problem with that it is that it triggers instant suspicion that it is likely to be mere rhetoric. There is a very good mixture of water-cooler facts, and memorable images, and data presented to maximize emotional impact (but one automatically distrusts statistics which are visually compelling but don't provide the detailed information needed to crit them properly; of course that would be inappropriate in a popular film, but it's a no-win situation for Gore). The tearjerking stuff about his son being in a serious accident when he was six (and how that made him realize what is Really Important) may be effective but it felt over the top.

For me, the huge glaring flaw in the film is that he chooses to include stuff about how unfair the 2000 election was. I happen to agree that the shady practices which kept him out of the presidency were a terrible thing, but including that stuff is automatically going to alienate everyone even slightly right-leaning, and the issue is too important for that kind of political grandstanding. Not to mention that it makes his whole argument look specious, as if he was only campaigning on green issues to make a political point; there are enough snarky jibes at Bush and the Republicans to reinforce that.

But even if it weren't for that problem, just the fact that Gore comes across as the Cicero of the modern age kind of makes it about him. Floating around the very distant periphery of the American political blogosphere, I've noticed a really scary level of smear campaign against Gore. People bringing up the stupid urban legend that he claimed to have invented the internet, over and over again in barely relevant discussions, so that even if people don't intellectually believe that slur, they are bombarded with it until it makes an emotional impact. However good Gore is, any individual person is too easy a target.

I honestly don't understand why there is such a huge political impetus against doing anything environmental in America. "Petroleum lobby" seems like an overly simplistic explanation. And I don't know that it's really any worse than the general indifference to the issue in most of the rest of the world. It does seem as if Gore's film is doing some good, even if it's only helping to push people who basically agree with him from apathetic to engaged. I am quite scared about the future; on a personal level, I suspect that things are going to get seriously nasty just as I'm getting old. And trying to think about the consequences on a level beyond having little hope of a comfortable retirement is a scale of tragedy that I can't really relate to emotionally.

Whereaboooots: Jewish Centre, Stockholm, Sweden
Moooood: worriedworried
Tuuuuune: Mercury Rev: The dark is rising
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cartesiandaemon: default
Date:November 27th, 2007 02:55 pm (UTC)
6 hours after journal entry
I think this film is in many ways a victim of its own success. It is a superlatively good piece of rhetoric, but the problem with that it is that it triggers instant suspicion that it is likely to be mere rhetoric.

Hah, that's very well put. It's something I thought about other films, but didn't quite articulate.
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