30 Movies in 30 Days: Voyeur

Had I seen it before: No.

Year: 2017

Directors: Myles Kane and Josh Koury

Writer: N/A, it’s a documentary

Where you can stream it now: Netflix

What IMDb says: Journalism icon Gay Talese reports on Gerald Foos, the owner of a Colorado motel, who allegedly secretly watched his guests with the aid of specially designed ceiling vents, peering down from an “observation platform” he built in the motel’s attic.

Why I picked it: I was in the mood for a weird documentary where I wouldn’t mind if I fell asleep in the middle.

What I liked: As mentioned above, I put this on thinking I might fall asleep in the middle. I give it a lot of credit for pulling me in and getting me interested in the topic incredibly quickly. It’s the kind of “you can’t make this shit up” story that makes me love documentaries. I quickly understood what this film was about, but it also effectively teased some of the twists and turns to come. I wanted to know more.

I also loved how the film didn’t get quite as lurid as it could’ve. It really only focuses on one or two specific instances of what Gerald Foos saw. Instead, it makes the story about journalist Gay Talese, and the ethical minefield this journalist had to get through in order to publish his book, The Voyeur’s Motel. Talese is actually a super interesting dude in his own right, and I kind of wish the film had just been about his life of journalism rather than this particular hotel.

Throughout the movie, we get to see Talese stressing about the credibility of his witness, or whether or not he should turn in his witness to the authorities. His internal conflicts are a bit part of what drew me in, just as much as any of the external conflicts between him and Foos. wants to be trusted so that he can report accurately. One of my favorite moments of the whole thing is Talese lecturing the filmmakers on how they question Foos, and defending Foos’s right to have negative feelings about what Telese wrote about him. He doesn’t want them to do any gotcha journalism, and I came away from this wishing more journalists had the same commitment to objectivity.

What I didn’t like: I’m so conflicted on how to review this because while the story IS interesting, I still want the story to be something other than it is. But since this is a documentary, the filmmakers don’t have the same liberty to just re-write the story.

It’s absolutely appalling that a man consistently spied on his motel guests FOR DECADES while they engaged in sexual activity, and even more appalling that he didn’t seem to face a single negative consequence for this. I’m worried about the larger implications of Netflix giving this man such a platform. Will other people realize how easy it would be to get away with similar crimes?

There’s also the fact that “the voyeur,” tries to claim that this was some legitimate form of scientific research despite the poor ethics. And the film doesn’t really try to present the opposing side of this argument. Talese actually goes out of his way to say that Foos is “just a regular guy” and while this is part of what makes Foos so fascinating to Talese, I kind of hate that the movie just lets this go unchecked. I don’t want people thinking that men like Foos are just dudes with a healthy curiosity for sexuality. LIKE THIS MAN BOUGHT A MOTEL SPECIFICALLY FOR THE PURPOSE OF SPYING ON PEOPLE WHAT. The tone sometimes feels inappropriately casual for a documentary about A MAN THAT BOUGHT A MOTEL SPECIFICALLY FOR THE PURPOSE OF SPYING ON PEOPLE.

Will I watch it again: I doubt it.

Who would enjoy it: People who like weird documentaries, and possibly people who like stories about journalism.

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