Untitled Eliot Spitzer Film Screens For Standing-Room Only Tribeca Crowd
My first full day of Tribeca Film Festival duty really came down to the what's already the hottest-ticket item of the entire week ahead: Untitled Eliot Spitzer Film, director Alex Gibney's work-in-progress documentary about the career and eventual disgrace of the former New York governor. Being unfinished, reviewers are forbidden from writing especially in-depth about it. But here's one nugget: It's not untitled at all, even though to hear Gibney tell it in his introduction to a packed house, the working title Client-9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer may yet lose out to that more abstract, curious namelessless in the festival program.
"I'm actually becoming increasingly fond of calling it Untitled Eliot Spitzer Film," the director said tonight. "In part because I've never really done a film like this where I was so uncertain about where I was going as I was making a film -- and what the conclusions would be. This is a very divisive man and a very divisive subject. A lot of people suggested titles to me, like I Shot the Sheriff or Ain't Misbehavin' or Shake Your Moneymaker or Shake Your Money, Maker. But for now, Untitled seems about right. On the film itself, there is a title courtesy of the Department of Justice, which you'll understand when you see. That may or may not stay the same."
Likewise for the rest of the doc, which, as with most of Gibney's work, will go down as the definitive nonfiction-film account of its subject. Spitzer gave four separate interviews to the director ("In the last two, he changed his suit, which was especially irksome" Gibney said. "But we always made him wear the same tie."), and while the details of his downfall won't blow the minds of most political wonks or even casual, tabloid-reading New Yorkers, its dense, dramatic intrigue should hold the attention spans of general audiences who know Spitzer as little more than a hooker-patronizing late-night punchline.
Speaking of which, there may still be a documentary to be made about Spitzer's most famous paramour, Ashley Dupre -- who is conspicuously absent from Gibney's interviews. "I tried to interview Ashley Dupre," he said after the screening. "I asked her and her representatives; it was a lengthy negotiation. But ultimately it fell apart when Ashley Dupre asked if she could have editorial control, which I was not going to cede." The room rumbled with audience laughter. "There were times when the editing process was difficult, and I considered giving her editorial control, but that's just because editing is very difficult."
But there are other, more compelling revelations, not the least of which is the introduction to the governor's more regular for-hire consort "Angelina" (whom Gibney includes with a twist of his own). UESF also has a pretty well-developed sense of humor for a film that starts out with Spitzer staking his claim to a tradition of self-destruction dating "all the way back to Greek mythology." From Emperor's Club madam Cecil Suwal to deeply aggrieved NYSE board member Ken Langone, the movie has honest-to-God characters doing their things. It probably has too many, in fact; at a little over two hours, whatever work Gibney has left to lock the thing down had better include at least 10 minutes' worth of trimming.
Either way, expect a distributor to pick this up relatively soon. Not known for a blistering market atmosphere, the festival nevertheless had buyers and sales agents swarming out on West 23rd Street ahead of the film; I'd put Magnolia Pictures and Roadside Attractions among the likeliest as of this writing. Developing...