This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

30Nov/17

VOYEUR

Voyeur

Gerald Foos and Gay Talese discuss voyeurism and journalistic ethics in eye-opening documentary

VOYEUR (Myles Kane & Josh Koury, 2017)
IFC Center
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Opens Friday, December 1
212-924-7771
www.ifccenter.com
www.netflix.com

“I’m a natural person to write about a voyeur because I’m a voyeur myself,” award-winning, bestselling journalist Gay Talese says in Myles Kane and Josh Koury’s Voyeur. The documentary makes a voyeur of the viewer as well as it follows the thirty-five-year journalistic relationship and offbeat friendship between Talese, longtime New York Times and Esquire writer and author of such books as Honor Thy Father and Thy Neighbor’s Wife, and Gerald Foos, the owner of a Colorado motel who claims he spent decades spying on people from a special crawl space he built above the rooms. In January 1980, Foos, owner of the Manor House Motel, wrote a letter to Talese, offering him a story about what he was doing; Foos considered himself a researcher, not a pervert or a peeping Tom. Using archival footage, news reports, and new interviews, Kane and Koury follow Foos, his second wife, Anita, and Talese as the journalist prepares to write a major piece for the New Yorker in advance of the release of his latest book, The Voyeur’s Motel. New Yorker articles editor Susan Morrison considers Foos a disturbed sociopath in need of attention, while Grove/Atlantic senior editor Jamison Stoltz and publisher Morgan Entrekin have their doubts about the veracity of Foos’s eerily specific tale. So as questions arise about key facts and Talese’s professional ethics, Foos wonders if he should have remained silent — “I’m used to private spaces, places that nobody could see me and I could see them,” he explains — and an angry Talese faces a potentially tarnished legacy.

Voyeur

Gerald Foos turned the Manor House Motel in Colorado into a research facility where he spied on couples having sex

Kane and Koury, who previously collaborated on such documentaries as Journey to Planet X, We Are Wizards, and We Will Live Again, often use a model of the Manor House to depict certain events while also re-creating scenes of Foos watching couples having sex — including one time when Talese joins him in the snooping and experiences a wardrobe malfunction. (Kane and Koury also let the camera lovingly follow Talese as he impeccably dresses himself, every detail crucial to his overall appearance, much like a journalist getting every single fact right.) Over the years, Talese and the Fooses developed a unique kind of bond that is unusual for a writer and his subject, but the erudite Talese, now eighty-five, defends his actions. “My life has pretty much been living through other people’s experiences and to be a very accurate chronicle, an observer, watching other people, listening,” he says. “I take my time, and I am genuinely interested in the people I am writing about because there’s something about them that I feel I can identify with.” It is fascinating to watch the reactions of Foos and Talese as the article comes out, the book is published, and all hell breaks loose. Voyeur raises significant issues about truth in journalism, the writer’s ethical responsibilities, and the lure of salaciousness. Early on, Talese, in his writing bunker filled with decades and decades of carefully organized files — in a way similar to the collections of baseball cards and other objects Foos keeps in his basement — says, “The story never ends. Stories never die. A lot of reporters think when they leave a story, it’s all over. Sometimes it’s just beginning.” Kane and Koury stick with the story and end up with quite a tale, something that is not about to die anytime soon. On December 1, Voyeur starts streaming on Netflix and opens at IFC Center, where Kane and Koury will participate in a Q&A following the 6:05 screening on Friday night.

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