Monday, September 16, 2019

So evil/so transfixing: Matt Tyrnauer's absorbing doc, WHERE'S MY ROY COHN?

Sure, he was the guy you loved to hate. And you could so easily get away with it because Roy Cohn was one hateful son-of-a-bitch -- working for and/or representing some of the country's most disgusting people, from Joe McCarthy to John Gotti to Donald Trump (yes, Trump learned his sleaze not only from his dad but from his other mentor, Mr. Cohn).

The most amazing thing about Matt Tyrnauer's new documentary, WHERE'S MY ROY COHN?, is how the filmmaker has managed to show us Cohn in all his evil glory while simultaneously flabbergasting us with this man's singular abilities. It's like watching a cobra weave and sway in front of your hypnotized eyes, fascinating you, even as you finally succumb.

This encompassing movie by Mr. Tyrnauer (shown at left) -- who has also given us fine documentaries about Studio 54, Scotty BowersJane Jacobs and Valentino -- here combines America's history with that of Mr. Cohn's, in the process making us further aware of the ways in which power not only corrupts but congregates and so often wins the day. Even when Cohn and/or his employers lost, it is simply amazing to watch and marvel at how this piece of sleaze would rise from the ashes and reinvent himself (in something of the same old guise) again and again.

Especially unnerving is the section in which we see and learn how Cohn's playbook served as a tutor to the liar, racist and cheat (above, right) who is now the President of the United States.

The movie moves back and forth in time, but thanks to Tyrnauer's skill (along with that of his editors, Andrea Lewis and Tom Maroney), we're kept nicely in place.

We learn about Cohn's family history (I believe that's his mother at left, above), which is interesting and, of course, germane. And while it goes some distance in explaining his character, nothing quite accounts for the monster the man became.

A sometimes flamboyantly gay fellow who was not merely closeted but rather seemed to seal himself behind a brick wall, his behavior and comments -- regarding the fact that, could he possibly be gay? -- are so bizarre and head-spinning that you'll wonder how he managed all this in his own sick mind. The documentary may bring some viewers to recall how beautifully Tony Kushner created and captured Cohn in his play, Angels in America. (That's Cohen's first major amour, below, right.)

The more you hear and see, the crazier Cohn seems -- yet the more successful he becomes. Until he isn't. At which point his supposed friends, clients and contacts desert him, Barbara Walters included. (TrustMovies dearly hopes that this lifetime shill for the wealthy and connected, whose obituary ought to be coming up soon, gets the kind of write-up she so richly deserves.)

It's all here and bigger than life (than the lives most of us plebes lead, at least). What Mr. Tyrnauer has given us should stand the test of time as a welcome and necessary reminder of what one of the most famous sycophant power brokers and his shit-ass clients gave to these United States.

From Sony Pictures Classics and running 97 minutes, Where's My Roy Cohn? opens this Friday, September 20, in New York City at Film Forum and in West Los Angeles at The Landmark, after which it will expand its run to cities across the country.

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