252. Voyeur

★★

“Voyeur” is a documentary that thinks just because its a documentary, it is inherently good. This is false. The movie is compelling at times with an unconventional but respectable structure, detailing a crime, then the story about that crime, then the aftermath of that story. But “Voyeur” thinks so highly of itself and its subject matter, of its characters Guy Talese and of Gerald Foos, that the bizarre story lurking at its core gets buried in hubris and untamed ambition.

“Voyeur” is about Gerald Foos, a guy with a weird sexual past who bought a motel in Aurora, Colorado and spied guests having sex. At some point, Foos read a sex book by journalist Guy Talese and reaches out to him about his own voyeuristic fetishes. Talese documents Foos in a story for The New Yorker called “The Voyeur’s Motel” with the efforts and effects of that publication being detailed in this documentary.

Directors Myles Kane and Josh Koury, along with Talese himself, make interesting comparisons between Foos’ own life as a voyeur and the nature of Talese’s journalistic career, how they are both chroniclers and anthropologists of human nature in their own sense. But the film relies too heavily on the accounts of Koury and Talese, giving too much freedom for them to craft their own story and distort the truth. A hefty portion of the film is the recreation of sex acts Foos might have watched when he was managing the hotel. These scenes help illustrate the depravity of is psyche, but also beg the question of if much of the footage in your documentary is recreated, what was the point of making this documentary in the first place? You can’t call yourself a true journalist or anthropologist if you don’t unearth something real. Recreations are just polished make believe, the sort Talese would look at and tell you to just write fiction if you have to recreate anything at all.

“Voyeur” is not a good movie but still represents something important enough that justifies it existence. It shows that society still cares about journalism and that audiences hold as much value in the process of how a story is made as much as the story itself. “Voyeur’s Motel” is a story that was great for print but not great for the screen. “Voyeur” is an overzealous attempt to create a strange half-documentary/half-“Serial” type thing of that once great print story. Behind-the-scenes looks at things we like can be enthralling and soothing. But with “Voyeur,” we were in a much better place before the film ever began.

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