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Movie Critic Again Ponders a Marxist Uprising

Stephen Holden on why the left-wing guerilla filmmakers The Yes Men keep up the good fight: "I imagine they would argue that they are sowing the seeds of a populist revolt somewhere down the line. If they can do it, why not us?"

To the surprise of no one, the Times' left-wing movie critic Stephen Holden embraced the left-wing guerilla filmmakers The Yes Men and their new mockumentary, "The Yes Men Fix the World." (The troupe's line of attack resembles Michael Moore with a drier wit.)



After saluting the group's "diabolical intelligence" and "high jinks" as "great fun," Holden openly wondered why this kind of "populist revolt" (Marxism) hasn't caught fire with the public.


It takes some nerve, not to mention diabolical intelligence and financial resources, to pull off the elaborate pranks devised by Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno (who are in real life Jack Servin and Igor Vamos), the antiglobalization activists and satirical performance artists known as the Yes Men.


Whether their high jinks accomplish much beyond momentarily embarrassing the corporations and government agencies they misrepresent at business conferences and public forums is an open question. But it is great fun to watch them do their dirty work. In their second film, "The Yes Men Fix the World," they pose as representatives of Dow Chemical, Halliburton, Exxon and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. The most outrageous of the modest proposals offered by these impostors might have made Jonathan Swift smile.


"What we do is pass ourselves off as representatives of big corporations we don't like," Mr. Bonanno cheerfully explains at the beginning of the film. "We make fake Web sites, then wait for people to accidentally invite us to conferences."


Holden revealed how alienated The Yes Men are from reality:


The Yes Men have no doubts about the righteousness of their cause. At the top of their enemies list stand Milton Friedman, "the guru of greed" (their words) and champion of free-market economies, who died three years ago, and his followers.


In the movie's first and greatest prank, they set up a fake Dow Chemical Web site and waited for a response. A week before the 20th anniversary of the 1984 Bhopal disaster at a Union Carbide pesticide plant in India, the BBC mistook their site for the real thing and invited a corporate representative to give a live interview. Posing as the fictional Jude Finisterra, Mr. Bichlbaum declared on television that Dow, which had bought Union Carbide in 2001, was taking complete responsibility for the deadly gas leak and would set up a $12 billion fund to compensate the victims and clean up the site.


Sounds hilarious, doesn't it?


In the movie's final stunt the Yes Men printed and passed out thousands of copies of a facsimile of The New York Times, dated July 4, 2009, and stamped with the motto "All the news we hope to print," with the headline "Iraq War Ends." It concludes the movie on a wistful, utopian note....Their failure to shame companies like Dow Chemical into doing what the Yes Men believe to be the right thing brings up the question of why they bother. I imagine they would argue that they are sowing the seeds of a populist revolt somewhere down the line. If they can do it, why not us?


This is far from Holden's first call to Marxist-style revolt. The notoriously left-wing movie critic embraces leftist documentaries, especially ones that aim atpolitically correcttargets likebig business andheartland hicks.


By contrast, Holden disdains movies that discomfit liberal sensibilities. He called "The Stoning of Soraya M," the true story of the misogynist murder of a woman in a Muslim village in Iran, "lurid torture-porn."