Not often do you see the moment when a man looks in the mirror and doesn’t like who he sees.

In this case the man is famed journalist Gay Talese and the mirror is his subject Gerald Foos and the moment was captured during the new documentary called Voyeur.

There are so many meta levels to this new non-fiction film by Myles Kane and Josh Koury. The two filmmakers hit the documentary jackpot managing to capture for all of us a tale of journalism, sex, lies and all of it on videotape.

Superficially, Voyeur is a simple story. A famous writer waits patiently for 30 years to put pen to paper a story so sensational it will cement his already famous literary legacy into infamy territory. His subject,simultaneously reclusive and preening, is Gerald Foos, a man who claims to have bought a motel for the express purpose of spying on its inhabitants.

The film, shot over five years, follows the two men, one writing, the other telling stories and the aftermath of their not-so-chance meeting.

But beneath the surface, Voyeur is a swan song to a bygone era where reporters were trusted to write a story as they saw fit and their arrogance and prominence kept them from being questioned. In an era filled with shouts of fake news the idea that someone could talk to a guy, then write about him and pawn off that story as gospel truth with no Snoopes.com in tow seems ludicrous.

But there is the rub. It’s precisely because Talese dared you to contradict him, carried his confidence as a right not a privilege told the world he’d wrote what he wanted how he wanted it that makes this movie so good.

Because as much as Talese feigned integrity he was still selling a book about a man who was at best creepy and at worse a sexual deviant. I bet you he didn’t write that book for free.

As you watch tailors hand-sew the new suit Talese will wear on a television appearance to talk about the book he wrote about a man most people would say is nothing but a perverse criminal and call it art you know we’re beyond journalism and into something different entirely. We’ve entered that gray space of moral ambiguity that ends in paychecks for the writer but not his subject.

Voyeur is a masterwork of observation and the dual dichotomy involved with the devolution of a soul as perception brutally meets reality unbeknownst to the subjects involved.

It could be easy to say that Myers and Josh got lucky. After all one of America’s most famous journalists just imploded in a cloud of controversy over sense and sensibility.

Foos turned out to be more than an unreliable narrator. He’s a straight up liar saying he owned a hotel during years a public deed of record says he didn’t, claiming he saw things when he couldn’t because those things were written before he ever bought the hotel.

These are all things Gay knew before he wrote an article about Foos for the New Yorker. Yet he still bought that new suit.

I never expected to leave this film feeling sorry for Foos and that Talese should be in jail but therein lies the disturbing tarpit of this documentary.

Because as much as you dislike Foos, a man who claimed to have spied on 2,000 people staying at his motel each year for “research,” Foos wasn’t the one who published his story.

Foos wrote Talese over 30 years ago just after the writer published his book that looked at the kinky side of America. Foos said his voyeuristic tendencies weren’t perverse but research much like Talese did.

After about a decade of correspondence Talese made the trek out to the seedy dingy motel in Colorado and did a little motel spying on his own.

He spent the next 20 years trying to get Foos to allow him to publish the story with his real name and any facts Foos could give.

It’s clear Foos was clueless into what all that meant. It’s also clear Foos is not wholly right. Something is off with this dude.

Foos is an attention-seeking nobody who, when his story did get published, got angry and scared and clearly wanted out.

The New Yorker editor calls Foos a sociopath. But what do you call the man who exploits a sociopath under the guise of journalism and gets paid for it? Add to that an audience watching this all unfold on film complete with a faux replica miniature hotel being arranged by some creepy guy standing in for Foos. The bad re-enactments complete this farcical display. It’s enough to make even the harden of us squeamish with ickiness.

But there was nothing in the movie that I heard, not the fact Foos started his voyeurism fetish in his teens by spying on his aunt, not the fact that he put pornography in his motel rooms to see what guests would do, not even the fact that he saw a girl murdered (I didn’t believe that), none of Foos tales were so stomach churning as that flight Talese made to Denver after the story broke in the New Yorker to calm Foos down and urge him not to talk to anyone before the book came out.

The sight of Talese standing in Foos nondescript backyard, his tailored suit made more brilliant by the harsh Colorado sun, as he gently soothes a clearly scared Foos and quietly telling his subject not to talk to anyone before the book comes out, isn’t journalism…it’s profiteering. And no matter how disgusting I thought Foos was no moment in the movie made me feel so low than that one.

The man in the mirror moment happened immediately before. Gay and Gerald sitting facing each other in Gerald’s modest living room. The filmmakers ask Gerald if he regrets his decision to bare his soul to a global writer. He hesitates, looking Talese in the eye. Talese does not want to hear this answer. He interrupts Gerald and begins to chastise the filmmakers for asking the question. Then, without a hint of irony, he berates them, accuses them of trying to trick Foos and exploit the poor guy.

I sat back in my theater chair and just shook my head. There was a lot of voyeuristic behavior in this film so aptly name. Foos was a voyeur who creepily and probably illegally spied on his motel guests. Talese was a voyeur who spied in Foos as he spied on guests. The filmmakers were voyeurs as they watched a writer and his source both unravel in the aftermath of their gentleman’s agreement of storytelling becoming public. And I was a voyeur watching a man in complete denial of his rationalization.

The movie ends not with Foos’ documents, his voyeur diaries or his obsessively odd ridiculously large baseball card collection.

It ends in the Manhattan office of an attention-seeking, voyeur man who has two-life sized posters of himself, file cabinets filled with notes about the stories he wrote, collages of his articles, appearances, rows of books that bear. his byline in what amounts to a living mausoleum to his once vibrant, now dead legacy and career.

Principal Design Director, Design Research Lead @IDEO, Karaoke specialist, cold-water swim enthusiast, 3x Ironman — yep that’s me! Living life like it's golden.

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