When I was at Sundance, I avoided An Inconvenient Truth because, you know, hearing that they’ve finally made a movie out of the Al Gore lecture series isn’t exactly thrilling news to a cinephile. But when it finally opened commercially and my wife dragged me to see it, I was pleasantly surprised — it’s not just a competent big-screen presentation of a fairly cogent thesis on climate change, but it has a striking visual presence as well. The slightly soft, lushly saturated HD imagery is easy on the eyes and old Al seems maybe to have had that stick surgically extracted from his butt — he’s never looked looser and more comfortable.
I groused at first about the frequent interruptions for short bits of documentary that meditated respectfully on the man behind the mission — they seemed a little campaign-filmy to me — but on further reflection they started to seem key to the overall experience. These are supposed to be the sequences where you get an idea of Al Gore as a human being rather than a slide-presentation drone, but they also nudge the film into personal cinema territory in terms of what they tell us about the sensibility of the filmmaker and his own relationship to the subject. In other words, it’s a mash note, but a surprisingly compelling one.
Anyway, I talked to director Davis Guggenheim and editor Dan Swietlik about the project for Film & Video. I was a little surprised to learn that Gore himself was involved in the editorial process — I’d imagine that’s a tricky situation for any non-fiction filmmaker to get involved in, where you have to deal with the subject of the film hanging around the editing room — but it’s hard to tell how much influence he might have had, beyond dictating which bits of his presentation could be trimmed and which bits had to stay in the final cut.