Celsius 41.11

2004, R, 90 min. Directed by Kevin Knoblock. Narrated by Tony Calabrese.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 22, 2004

It’s hard to know what to make of this documentary, the conservative rejoinder to Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11: At any other time in our nation’s history, it’s likely both films would have been consigned to the airwaves of public-access-television conspiracy theorists. Only because we find ourselves in the midst of some immediately identifiable history are theatres and Internet DVD outlets so flooded this electoral season with both strains of bitter acrimony. Moore’s film was certainly far from perfect, as is Knoblock’s, but they apparently both have their places in the media tsumani battling it out for the hearts and minds of American voters. Where Moore’s film was, at its best, an incitement to rally against some very obvious foolhardiness coming from the Bush administration and utilized classic documentary techniques, Knoblock’s film comes off as dull as dishwater by comparison. There are talking heads galore, precious few of whom the public will be familiar with (although film critic Michael Medved makes an appearance, which just goes to show that Moore has yet to fully corner the market on outright weirdness). Footage of the Twin Towers in flames are immediately, predictably followed by footage of antiwar demonstrators, some of whom seem to be unaware they’re playing right into the filmmaker’s hands via various incautious, unreasoned, and understandably fearful statements. Celsius 41.11 (the temperature at which the brain begins to die, apparently) is heavy on the doom and gloom. The very soul of America – if such a thing actually exists – is at stake, we’re told again and again, and it’s this heavy-handed technique that stops the film cold. Knoblock and his backers, the conservative group Citizens United, have managed to include everything from the contested 2000 Florida debacle to the by-now-disproved claim that Saddam Hussein had WMD and was planning on using them on someone, somewhere, at some point. By now, every film critic in the world has got to be sick to death of the nonstop partisan cinemania (I must admit I certainly am), freighted as it is with encroaching history on all sides, Democrat, Republican, and, um, that Nader fellow. And while Celsius 41.11 may be seen, by those on the right, surely, as a smart, well-timed broadside aimed at Mr. Moore and his ilk, the fact remains that this is such a partisan piece of work as to be nearly, merely a political tool (you could argue the same for Fahrenheit 9/11) more than a real film. Any way you look at it, November 2 simply cannot arrive fast enough.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Films
Men in Black: International
The Men in Black stay thoroughly Earthbound in a sequel saved only by its stars

Matthew Monagle, June 14, 2019

Shaft
Three Shafts are definitely worse than one in this failed revival of the blaxploitation classic

Steve Davis, June 14, 2019

More by Marc Savlov
The Dead Don't Die
After the vampiric bite of Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch shambles through this zombie flick

June 14, 2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Who will win this epic new battle royal as Godzilla faces King Ghidorah?

May 31, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Celsius 41.11, Kevin Knoblock

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle