Death of a President

| November 02, 2006
What now: The sensationalistic Death of a President is all concept.
What now: The sensationalistic Death of a President is all concept.

After an absorbing opening act, Gabriel Range's documentary-style fantasy about the 2007 assassination of President George W. Bush succumbs to narrative torpor; in a telling, unintentional irony, the film's gradual decomposition into symbolism and senselessness mirrors the problems all revolutionaries face when they seek and achieve violent regime change: Namely, what do you do once the bad guy is gone? Oddly, this strange provocation is most successful in its sympathetic treatment of G.W. Bush as both a public figure and a homespun mythological presence; once the president dies after giving an RFK-like final speech, the rest of the film doesn't know whether to explore the political aftermath of the event or expose the suspected assassins. It ends up throwing up its hands in confusion.

For more rigorous and outrageous political speculation, seek out the DVD works of pseudo-documentarian Peter Watkins. Or better still, pick up Sinclair Lewis' vitriolic 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here, which addresses the major flaws of Death of a President succinctly: "In America, which had so warmly praised itself for its 'widespread popular free education,' there had been so very little education, widespread, popular, free, or anything else, that most people did not know what they wanted -- indeed knew about so few things to want at all." This film doesn't help matters.

Now playing, Palace Cinema

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