Bowling for Columbine Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review
The essay included with this Criterion Collection release (“By Any Means Necessary” by Eric Hynes) cites a Washington Post study that estimates around 200,000 students and nearly 200 schools have “experienced a shooting on campus.” Although not the first, the massacre at Columbine High School stands as something of a marker, a tragedy sometimes not mentioned but always felt when another–and there’s always another–happens.
BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, directed by Michael Moore, doesn’t just target that shooting, or shootings in general. It goes for a lot here concerning gun culture, and Moore plows through topics such as fear, obsession, power, availability, and so much more. One topic put under scrutiny gives the film its title. “BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE” comes from the suggestion that the shooters were bowling the morning of the shooting, and that if one is to blame video games or music, then why not pins and bumpers? (This would be debunked, and so the title, while catchy, makes less sense than intended.) It’s a far-reaching point, but the film does ask many intriguing questions, so many of which we still ask today, and likely will for a long time.
(Many may note that Moore never truly gets around to highlighting mental illness–granted, this wasn’t as “on the table” as it is now, 16 years after BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE’s release. Notably, fifteen of the deadliest mass shootings in this country’s history have occurred since 2002, including the top five; mental illness is often discussed.)
Moore mocks at times, as when he purchases a firearm at a bank and, upon leaving, poses the question to an employee, “Isn’t it a little dangerous handing out guns at a bank?” Or when the camera directs its attention to a reporter on the scene who seems more concerned about his hair than a murdered girl. He also goes for the jugular, as when he shows up at the Kmart where the bullets used in the massacre were purchased. With two survivors in tow, he presses for a refund on the bullets still lodged in the boys’ bodies. So much more is accomplished. Both are for a good cause, and both memorable parts to the film. The latter, however, stands as one of the most heroic moments in documentaries, pushing BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE near the top of its genre, at least for this century so far.
Moore occasionally veers–the “What a Wonderful World” montage, while finely set up, feels like he is digging the wrong tunnel; his stepping onto NRA wacko Charlton Heston’s property and leaving a picture of a gun victim highlights Moore’s lust for sensational visuals and hounding tactics–and this hurts the film at times. But when he zeroes in on a logical point, which is certainly often, the film is at its strongest: intelligent, passionate and something to root for.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “This new high-definition digital transfer was created from a 35 mm interpositive by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. The footage in the film was drawn from a variety of formats, including HD, 16 mm, Super 8, Super VHS, Hi8, Digital 8, MiniDV, VHS, three-quarter-inch tape, Betacam, Digital Betacam, DVD, and Super 16 mm.”
Considering the variety of sources (a selection of which are of lesser quality), it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE doesn’t exactly look pristine. A number of sequences are an improvement over past releases, but this is far from the finest-looking documentary in The Criterion Collection.
Audio: English 2.0 Surround. “The original 2.0 surround soundtrack was remastered from the 35 mm magnetic printermaster. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX. Please be sure to enable Dolby Pro Logic decoding on your receiver to properly play the Dolby 2.0 surround soundtrack.”
The same more or less goes for the audio, although there are fewer issues that call attention.
Michael Moore Makes a Movie (34:59): In this 2018 piece, Moore, BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE chief archivist Carl Deal, composer and field producer Jeff Gibbs, supervising producer Tia Lessin, and field producer Meghan O’Hara discuss the film’s style, the director’s methods, behind-the-scenes stories and more.
Film Festival Scrapbook (12:00) is a collection of footage from various film festivals during the premiere tour of BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE.
Charlie Rose (24:47) is an excerpt from Moore’s 2002 appearance on the program.
Moore Returns to Colorado (25:09): Six months after the release of the documentary, Moore returned for a speaking engagement.
Oscar Speech (13:01) offers Moore’s controversial speech, delivered after winning the Best Documentary Academy Award, as well as the director’s reflections.
The Awful Truth: “Corporate Cops” (7:17): A segment from a 2000 episode of Moore’s program.
Also included with this Criterion Collection release: an essay by critic Eric Hynes.