Directed by: Miles Kane, Josh Koury
Released late 2017 on Netflix, this unsettling documentary follows American author Gay Talese (Thy Neighbor’s Wife) as he writes his next book about a hotel owner who states that he was secretly watching his guests and documenting their activity. The hotel owner, Gerald Foos, reports that he engaged in this activity throughout the late 1960’s and 70’s and contacted Talese in the early eighties to share his story (with just Talese, ostensibly). After some some prodding by Talese, Roos agrees to allow a book to be written about his experiences. When the book is released, journalists begin to uncover major inconsistencies in Roos’ story and bring any claims he is making into question.
This documentary is fascinating not so much for the inevitable car crash of an ending but for the way people can develop a completely insulated and naive view of how their actions will be perceived by others. Roos considers himself a researcher into human behavior and sexuality and apparently has no qualms about his intrusion into the private lives of strangers. As his story breaks across national media; he’s obviously horrified to learn that he’s considered a bit of a scoundrel.
To his credit, Talese initially disavows his book about Roos (The Voyeur’s Motel) when learning about his subject’s inconsistencies. He does appear to walk this back after further conversations with Roos and continued to promote his purpoted non-fiction book. Talese seemed so single minded to get the story published that he appears flippant regarding the facts. Ambivalence aside, an engaging tale that’s well paced with the stylistic nods to Errol Morris and other fine documentarians.