W The Movie (2008)

Rating:

USA. 2008.

Crew

Directors – Alfred Eaker & Russ St. Just, Screenplay – Alfred Eaker, Photography – Nick Hess & Matthew Latorre, Visual Effects Supervisor – Russ St. Just. Production Company – Pink and Blue Films/Liberty or Death Productions/Asylum House Productions

Cast

Alfred Eaker (W/Blue Mahler/Senator/Reverend Phelps/Foxx News Anchor/Dr Flotsam), Pink Freud (Herself/Jezebel), Steven Gray (Jeb Head), Russ St. Just (Samson), David Eaker (The Judge), John Loyd (Barack Hussein Obama), Jason Hignite (Jonny McPain/Antony), Gary Pierce (Saddam Hussein), Lauren Paige (Delilah), John M. Bennett (Texas Oil Man), Uncle Ernie (Himself/Mr Goliath/Bill Jetsam), Brother Brown (Uncle Samo/Ben Llama)

Plot

A meteor from space lands in the Arizona desert. Inside an oil millionaire finds his long lost son W and pushes him to run for President. Aided by his brother Jeb Head, who exists as a disembodied head, W succeeds in stealing the election and becoming The President. The attack by the terrorist Ben Llama on 9/11 becomes an opportunity for W to crack down on all dissent in the country and to launch a war against Saddam Hussein (who has been in his employ for many years) and invade Iraq. Among many of those protesting against the suppression of free thought is Blue Mahler who prints his diatribes in ‘Issues and Alibis’ magazine and proves a constant vexatious thorn in W’s side.

W The Movie is the second feature film from Alfred Eaker. Eaker is best known as a surrealist painter but has also branched out onto film, having previously made Jesus and Her Gospel of Yes (2004), an absurdist modern take on the life of Christ. The characters of Blue Mahler and Pink Freud (played by Eaker’s wife), the principal protagonists in W The Movie, were originally characters created by Eaker in performance art works, which include a radical revision of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar where Blue Mahler became a fascist dictator.

W The Movie – not to be confused with W. (2008), the serious-minded (and surprisingly sympathetic) Oliver Stone biopic of George W. Bush – is a surrealistic satire on the Bush presidency. (The Oliver Stone film does get a couple of references thrown in its direction towards the end here, although W The Movie started shooting some three years before W. appeared). If anything, W The Movie could almost be considered the sweded version of W. – after the habit of making no-budget copies of popular films on deliberately chintzy cardboard sets that we saw in Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind (2008). W The Movie is certainly a bewildering experience – imagine an incisive attack on the Bush presidency, all conducted as something between The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) costume pantomime and amid digital animation that makes the whole film look as though it is taking place on cardboard cutout sets.

After the massive success of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), criticism of the Bush presidency and associated issues became an industry unto itself on the independent filmmaking scene. In particular, documentary film was seen as the last independent media voice after the wary, uncritical tone taken by the majority of mainstream media. Like most of these, W The Movie is refreshingly unapologetic about holding a liberal agenda and offers a damning indictment of the many crimes perpetuated by the Bush White House. (A lookalike papier-mache guardian angel named Michael Moore even turns up to aid Blue Mahler and the revolutionaries). Eaker and his co-director Russ St. Just cover most aspects of the Bush presidency – from the stealing of the 2000 election to naturally 9/11 and the Iraq War (the defining events of the Bush presidency) to Hurricane Katrina and the 2008 election, culminating in the Barack Obama victory. We even get digs at the Florida ballots controversy and the blatant conservative agenda of the Fox news channel. (About the only issues missing are John Kerry and Karl Rove’s barefaced turning of gay marriage into a ballot issue in many states to bring the fundamentalists out to vote in the 2004 election). The film even ends with the appealing thought of George W. Bush being tried for war crimes.

The result resembles something akin to a university student revue political satire. Everything looks affectedly surreal and cartoonish. Sometimes the film wanders off into unrelated things – I was not quite sure, for instance, how the scenes during the middle of the film with Blue Mahler’s son Samson (played by co-director Russ St. Just), Delilah and Samson’s testosterone cream were meant to relate to George W. Bush. That said, every so often the film returns to the main target and hits the nail acutely on the head with the points it makes. One of the most effective scenes is the chess game between Blue Mahler and W where Blue remonstrates how Bush’s evangelical Christianity and bin Laden’s jihadist Islam are essentially facets of the same coin in terms of being extreme beliefs that offer no tolerance of any alternatives, or the demolition of the film’s equivalent of John McCain as being no more than a Bush puppet. The references are often clever – like a collage of posters in the background of one scene that puts pictures of Bush, Donald Rumsfield and Dick Cheney alongside phrases from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) – “war is peace,” “freedom is slavery” etc – or mocked up amid Nazis propaganda posters, even a recreation of the poster for Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940).

One of the most striking aspects about W The Movie is the design work. Most of the film has been shot digital backlot in a way that makes the sets seems deliberately artificial – gingerbread houses, Roman arenas, even W walking amid a sea of bodies to represent Hurricane Katrina. (The film’s unique design for a radio has to be seen to be believed). There are times that this mix of sweded sets and digital backlot is strikingly inventive. Particularly well done are dogfights between deliberately unreal, almost cardboard fighter planes in the skies, which have all been beautifully digitally animated.

The actors are all non-professionals. Though numerous real-life characters are portrayed, none of the actors chosen have many physical resemblance to their real-life counterparts – Saddam Hussein is played by a Caucasian man, for instance, while the equivalent of Condoleeza Rice is cheekily outfitted as a street hooker. Alfred Eaker seems to play most of the roles in the film, including both the central parts of W and his nemesis Blue Mahler. Both W and Blue Mahler go through the film with faces painted respectively like an American flag and in alternating blue and red colours. Eaker plays with a deliberately broad Texan accent, while delivering all the dialogue in the tone of a shouty commercial as though through a megaphone.


Full film available here

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