“Voyeur”

Voyeur

INTERMITTENTLY BUT FREQUENTLY, usually during those moments of evening mental vacancy, you seem to stumble upon something truly bizarre while browsing the sprawling Netflix library for something to watch. Thus I found myself sitting through Voyeur, a compelling and sinister and singular documentary by Myles Kane and Josh Koury, in which Gerald Foos, a lifelong Peeping Tom, tells the story of how he acquired a neglected suburban motel for the express purpose of watching its guests have sex.

His audience to this sordid tale is the celebrated literary journalist Gay Talese, who was most recently in the news for defending, somewhat aggressively, the actor Kevin Spacey against allegations of sexual assault of a minor. Nevertheless, Talese is a talented and diligent journalist who, for the purposes of writing a now-famous article in The New Yorker entitled “The Voyeur’s Motel”, spent considerable time and energy getting to know his rather unusual subject.


Voyeur is less about Mr. Foos than it is about Talese’s effort to write about Mr. Foos which, needless to say, doesn’t always go smoothly. It was Foos, motivated by a sort of pride and the vague feeling that he needed to share his story with the world, who approached Gay Talese in the first instance.


In fact, Voyeur is less about Mr. Foos than it is about Talese’s effort to write about Mr. Foos which, needless to say, doesn’t always go smoothly. It was Foos, motivated by a sort of pride and the vague feeling that he needed to share his story with the world, who approached Gay Talese in the first instance. And Talese, whose career reveals nothing if not an obsession with chronicling all manner of human behaviour in its most truthful state (the filmmakers dedicate considerable screen time to the scandal surrounding Thy Neighbor’s Wife), jumps at the opportunity. What follows is a story told in all its sordid detail, but also a relationship developing in parallel. There is rarely any suggestion of journalistic objectivity; instead, Talese and Foos both allow themselves to be drawn into the worlds of the other, and at times it isn’t clear whether one isn’t manipulating the other.


Kane and Koury, meanwhile, guide the good ship Voyeur with a steady hand. Both Talese and Foos seem to lose themselves more than once. While Talese flouts journalistic ethics and describes joining Foos in his “observation deck” in the early nineteen-eighties, Foos, a chronic hoarder convinced his library of baseball cards and other tat is worth millions, insists his voyeurism is in fact academic study.


Kane and Koury, meanwhile, guide the good ship Voyeur with a steady hand. Both Talese and Foos seem to lose themselves more than once. While Talese flouts journalistic ethics and describes joining Foos in his “observation deck” in the early nineteen-eighties, Foos, a chronic hoarder convinced his library of baseball cards and other tat is worth millions, insists his voyeurism is in fact academic study. Though not quite as interesting as the central story itself, the dynamic between Talese and Foos is fascinating. Together, the pair look vaguely ludicrous: Talese is tall and thin, and never seen without an immaculately tailored suit, hat and silk tie; Gerald Foos, wearing a pair of oversized Mars Blackmon glasses, at times resembles a sort of shabby Bono. It’s Talese himself who makes the suggestion that he himself is a voyeur of sorts, just like Gerald Foos, and in a story so corrupted by unreliable narration it strikes you as one of its few truths.

Voyeur is nothing if not strange tale. Its subjects are the lurid and the scandalous and the thrill of silently invading another’s private life. At its conclusion and in its aftermath there remain many questions unanswered or only partly answered, but even a brief glimpse into this strange world is titillation enough.

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