Article published on July 13, 2007
Article published on July 13, 2007
A modest criticism not less subtle Just like an omniscient narrator, King of the World tells the American imperialistic illusion, avoiding clichés. Have the sons of the Old Europe become the kings of the United States? After watching that film which title had already arrested me, I should say that the debate on “Communautarism” was rather poor and disappointing.

A good bet for a modest production which still feeds pondering.

This one-hour fifty five docu-moovie was realized by three young Frenchies. Those were as quite as the promotion of their piece was, which creates a total new effect on the European audience. In-between the experimental documentary ant the sophisticated realization of a Michael Moore production, King of the World is a sociological investigation in the road movie style. In the end, one evidence : Americans don’t think themselves as kings and queens of the world, they just don’t know about the world… One would easily reply the criticism is over passed. Saying that the American super power represents itself as the centre of the universe and despises everything and everyone has something of déjà vue, doesn’t it? Not at all. Indeed, this film manages to bring together the sharpness of an investigation and the subtle touch of cinema d’auteur.

A sensible criticism

Conducting some sort of vox pop on the Western side walks, the film-makers introduce us with the Yankees, as we call them. Interviewing these natives, whose forefathers simply were the pioneers of the American dream and who inherited from the Myth the Boarder, the film-makers give them the opportunity to speak openly. And through these confessions, we get the evidence of their deep credulity. Indeed, if we often blame the Americans of imperialism, we cannot whether prove they are able to rationalize their acting and their speaking. However, we don’t want to laugh at the afflicting bull breeder who says he doesn’t understand why people would ask the State to pay for the Health Care Service when in 1680 nobody asked for HCS and “still, everything was going fine”… Neither do we want to condemn the belly beer capped-guy for arguing that a country applying the death penalty is a “free country”. No, because these opinions hide an alienating social and an intellectual poverty. One should keep in mind that any American is a victim.

He is a victim of the Government which feeds a high level of ignorance, but he’s also victim of an individualistic system that doesn’t encourage to look further on.

As one of the film-makers said during the debate which followed the movie and which was dealing with communautarism, “these people are not used to talking about politics, it is still taboo; but we gave them the opportunity to express themselves on these matters and for that, many of them were thankful”. Then, the waitress working in Reno confesses that everything is done in the United States to make the richer getting richer and the poorer getting poorer. She, herself, is cumulating two jobs which help her paying for her rent and financing her daughter’s dental care. She’s very cynical about the American dream, but she seems resigned. And when they meet the Pastor of a jail in Texas, the film team is asked to move out of the prison : The Pastor wants to speek openly … and it seems that any truth is not good to say in this world. Speaking like he were making a confession, and expressing himself in a perfect French, he explains that the golden age of liberalism is finished. Liberty has become a chimera in the United States. Indeed, what is left of the first Amendment when censorship presses a church man to move into a car with a team of foreign journalists to be allowed to speak about the decline of his own country? Freedom of enterprise is not everything, and it seems that fundamentals have vanished. Nowadays, Americans play their own drama, and most of them realize it.

At first, the theme retained for the debate stroke us : “Communautarisms”. Anyway, the film doesn’t linger on discrepancies between ethnic and social communities.

As Paul Schor, a reader in History at the University La Sorbonne, explained, communautarism is not only about segregation of Indians or Negroes. It is, first, a body spirit, an identity that builds itself in opposition to the dominating representations. King of the World portrays the powerful America against which the popular America is trying to impose herself. In that sense, Middle class communautarism makes sense. As the investigations take place during the American election campaign of 2005, the film shows how much this community, though very heterogeneous, keeps united when they refer to their social conditions: Shall they be proud of it or ashamed, they commonly argue of being part of this America, and they all feel their society has shattered. The biker would die for his mate, but when he’s asked about 9/11 he doesn’t understand why his brothers can be killed by terrorist in the name of the United States dignity. For him, a real act of dignity would have been to bomb Irak. On the one hand, it is conceivable to die for another biker, but on the other hand it seems impossible to give one’s life for the democratic ideal. This statement proves that the American Nation, which revolves on democratic and unity values, doesn’t mean a lot anymore in the United States.