Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Is THE UNKNOWN KNOWN known?

There is no question that Errol Morris is the high priest of American documentary cinema, the equivalent of what John Ford was to Westerns, an artist akin in vision to Stanley Kubrick.  In this role of the high priest, he has been a modern-day confessor for some of the most unique people imaginable, from Holocaust-denying electric chair technicians to Robert McNamara.  His STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE was a unique change of pace, a film that challenged the limits of space-time in cinema by constructing a digital model of Abu Ghraib out of the infamous photos.
So in a sense, the film is somewhat of a combination of two previous Morris productions, FOG OF WAR and the aforementioned STANDARD.  But whereas those two films were especially poised towards characters who felt a certain damage caused by the wars they fought, this is an apologetic for one of the most brazenly illegal wars in recent memory, out of the mouth of the most central figures of the Babylonian cataclysm that was the Bush Administration.  Framing the discussion around a ream of unclassified memos collected in an archive over his decades of government service in various capacities, the overall sentiment is akin to a book interview on C-SPAN.  But the fact these documents essentially provide a paper trail for one of the most reviled survivors of Watergate makes the proceedings all the more fascinating and, at times, galling.  Rumsfeld is all smiles and grandfatherly chuckles as he discusses infamies like Gerald Ford's Halloween Massacre.  But the geopolitics surrounding the Iraqis and their connections to Palestinians, along with many other relevant topics such as the conflicts between the Sunni and Shia or the role of the Saudis is skipped by Rumsfeld, who simply is unable to admit the depth of his ineptitude when it came to the Occupation planning.  It's Rumsfeld's show, and he lies like a rug through it all, perhaps capping off his career with one last word, laced with lies and deception.  Since it is now becoming Morris's forte to interview former Secretaries of State, one can only gasp in anticipation for the obvious next step, Henry Kissinger.

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