| Oscar-winning writer-director Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side” and “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”) takes an in-depth look at the rapid rise and dramatic fall of politician Eliot Spitzer.
Spitzer, the son of a self-made real estate tycoon, served as New York’s attorney general for eight years and earned the nickname “The Sheriff of Wall Street” prosecuting white-collar crimes perpetrated by America’s largest financial institutions and some of the most powerful corporate executives in the country. His passion and combative style made him a perfect fit for this elected office.
This law-and-order liberal Democrat championed the causes of retribution, restitution and reform.
In 2006, he won the race for governor in a landslide, garnering 69 percent of the popular vote.
Then Spitzer secretly gave in to temptation and got caught with his pants down. He decided to resign from office on March 12, 2008, after he was linked to an online prostitution ring.
Many believed Spitzer was on his way to becoming the nation’s first Jewish president.
A candid and forthright Spitzer appears extensively throughout this scintillating tale of money, sex, power and betrayal and takes full responsibility for giving in to temptation. He compares his situation to Icarus of Greek mythology, whose wings melted when he flew too close to the sun.
Gibney takes full advantage of archival news footage and sensational newspaper headlines. He divides the film into several chapters with clever introductory headings. The musical selections and the aerial shots of Times Square add to the entertainment value of this slick production. The movie is perfectly paced, clocking in a few minutes short of two hours, and holds your interest with its captivating subject matter.
The title comes from the detailed affidavit filed in the federal case against Emperors Club VIP in which Spitzer is given anonymity as a customer procuring the services of high-priced escorts.
A very charismatic Spitzer explains that his desire to find an outlet for the pressure associated with public office led him to surfing the web and finding a discreet agency with extremely attractive women. He felt paying for sex seemed easier and less damaging than emotionally charged affairs or relationships. Although he became extremely paranoid about being caught, he could not control himself and ultimately vice prevailed over virtue.
Gibney pulled off a major coup by meeting and interviewing the prostitute “Angelina,” who spent the most time with Spitzer. She admitted to having sex with Spitzer and identified his photo when interrogated by the FBI. Because she is camera shy, Gibney hired actress Wrenn Schmidt to deliver her words from a transcribed interview.
Other interesting characters interviewed include: former New York Senate majority leader Joe Bruno; political consultant Roger Stone; Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, former CEO of the world’s largest insurance company AIG; and Cecil Suwal, the former head of the Emperors Club.
This documentary debuted at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival and recently made the stripped-down Oscar shortlist of 15 nominees for Best Documentary. It opens exclusively for a limited one-week engagement at the Tivoli in Westport.
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