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Client 9: Rise & Fall of Eliot Spitzer (Blu-ray)
This documentary feature takes an in-depth look at the rapid rise and dramatic fall of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. Nicknamed "The Sheriff of Wall Street," when he was NY's Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer prosecuted crimes by America’s largest financial institutions and some of the most powerful executives in the country. After his election as Governor, with the largest margin in the state's history, many believed Spitzer was on his way to becoming the nation's first Jewish President. Then, shockingly, Spitzer’s meteoric rise turned into a precipitous fall when the New York Times revealed that Spitzer - the paragon of rectitude - had been caught seeing prostitutes. As his powerful enemies gloated, his supporters questioned the timing of it all: as the Sheriff fell, so did the financial markets, in a cataclysm that threatened to unravel the global economy. With unique access to the escort world as well as friends, colleagues and enemies of the ex-Governor (many of whom have come forward for the first time) the film explores the hidden contours of this tale of hubris, sex, and power.
The fascinating documentary Client 9 has all the qualities of a Hollywood thriller: money, sex, and the destructive power of unbridled hubris. Eliot Spitzer had a meteoric rise as the aggressively progressive attorney general of New York State, gaining headlines and popularity for pursuing white-collar crime involving some astoundingly wealthy people and imposing regulatory reform on Wall Street. His success led him to become governor of New York--where his dictatorial style rubbed other politicians the wrong way. Could the enemies he made in the business and political worlds have had anything to do with the revelations that Spitzer patronized the Emperors Club VIP, a high-priced prostitution ring? Client 9 praises Spitzer's substantial achievements but doesn't turn a blind eye to his weaknesses and failures. The interviews--with Spitzer's enemies, escorts he'd hired, Emperors Club employees, and Spitzer himself--create a complex portrait of Spitzer and his career, as well as spinning out the suspense as revelations and investigations lead to catastrophe. However dubious Spitzer's moral juggling may have been, in the wake of the financial crisis, his Wall Street reforms--most of which were dismantled after his fall--now seem not merely prudent, but practically psychic. An engaging and illuminating movie. --Bret Fetzer
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Eliot Spitzer was a child of privilege. As one of his colleagues said in the documentary, he had good genes and good money. He went to the right schools and met his wife, Silda, at Harvard. As a lawyer, he worked in the Manhattan's District Attorney's office, and was involved in the investigation which brought down the Gambino family.
In 1998 he became New York State Attorney General. He developed a reputation for going after white collar crime and had an impressive record. He went after stock price inflation, predatory lending practices and fraud at AIG. It was here that he made a huge enemy in Maurice Greenberg, the CEO of AIG. His investigative work brought about the mutual fund scandal of 2003 with the discovery of illegal trading. This led to a run for the Governor's Office, which he won in 2007. He had a reputation for running roughshod over anyone in his way, and this was part of his downfall. He tried to eliminate fraud and kick backs in office and made too many enemies. On March 10, 2008 the prostitution scandal came to light and he resigned on March 17.
There were two big surprises in this film. The first is the girl who was named in the scandal, Ashley Dupré. She has attempted to cash in on her notoriety, but only saw Spitzer once. Another girl, who wishes to remain anonymous, saw him more regularly. She agreed to speak with the documentarians but not be seen or identified. They hired an actress to speak her part. She provided, under duress, all the information to the FBI.
The other surprise was Eliot Spitzer, himself. He is interviewed throughout the film, answering many personal questions including why he was unfaithful. He is not sure why he did something so foolish and reckless. He was forthright when he said "It seemed like a good idea at the time". In one article, William Belle says, "Spitzer was a good man who was doing good things. The unfortunate thing for the rest of us is that now we are deprived of that good man. As Attorney General, Spitzer was already in the face of Wall Street uncovering white collar crime. He was in the thick of it dealing with the run up to the financial crisis; he was aware of the idiocy going on before things fell apart; he was going after those who were playing fast and loose with our money."
The people in the film, the politicians, the Wall Street denizens, come off looking very bad. This documentary by filmmaker Alex Gibney suggests that Spitzer's demise wasn't just about sex. The enemies Spitzer made on Wall Street and in the New York state capital at Albany may have contributed to his political demise. Gibney unravelled the entire scandal, interviewing many of Spitzer's adversaries. And, as I have previously stated, Spitzer makes no excuses and accepts all responsibility for his downfall. The mess on Wall Street has continued, and we have lost one of the men who was out to get them.
A surprising documentary, filled with good information, historical facts and words from those involved. I came away from this feeling we have all lost a good man. in politics. Good Luck to Eliot Spitzer.
Highly Recommended. prisrob 02-09-11
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You also have to raise an eyebrow when it is revealed that all of Spitzer's work to keep Wall Street in line was undone once his character had been muddied, which pretty much allowed the global meltdown to go ahead.
A very interesting documentary, which is also quite frightening.
I only saw the trailer for this one before I bought the DVD, it didn't play in any theater where I live. I watched it and was totally engrossed by it. What he's really good at is bringing the humanity out of even the most despicable characters, and there are some pretty despicable characters like Roger Stone. He's an unapologetic prick who says he "believes in the 'Gonzo' brand of politics". But he still comes across as a fascinating character. So does Eliot Spitzer. The film isn't a defense of his actions, Eliot himself doesn't defend himself and does a pretty bad job of explaining why he did what he did. He does this by avoiding questions directly related to that while being powerfully articulate on other issues such as corporate crime and the financial crisis. He does say, and I have to give him credit for this, that he "brought himself down" and he doesn't blame anybody else for it. Gibney makes a convincing argument that other forces might be at play, but it was still Spitzer's choices and combative style that did him in.
The other choice Gibney made, which I found fascinating, was that he decided to take an interesting approach when dealing with Spitzers main woman at the escort agency. I don't mean Ashley Dupree, although he does spend a good amount of time talking about her and how she capitalized on what she did with Spitzer. There was another woman that he got to and the way he decided to do it was pretty original. Not wanting to reveal her face or real name, he cast an actress to "perform" her interview and the actress is so good, not to mention one of the most beautiful women I've seen in a long time, that you'd swear she was the real person. She comes across as what she is, beautiful and intelligent.
This film really made me think, and that's what I like best about Gibney's films. I always walk away from them feeling like I learned something. It's a film ulitmatly about choices and responsibility, both personal and political. It also made me think of a line from C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters":
"The truth is that whenever a man lies with a woman, there, whether they like it or not, a transcendental relationship is set up between them which must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured."
Spitzer was a hard driving s.o.b. He took on the investment bankers and stock brokering thieves and made enemies. He fought the good fight and made a lot of progress.
The problem with Eliot Spitzer was that he was a human being. He was an ambitious, hard headed driven man who also had an interest in women.
This film is sympathetic to him. It tries to show him in a favorable light. I guess that is why Spitzer appears in several interviews.
The testaments from the various women/escorts portray Spitzer as a reluctant client. He showed up once wearing a bit of a disguise. Sure he was there, he did it but without the arrogant bravado of a drug addled womanizer etc.
The film is more a story of what can happen to someone who makes enemies in high places. The men behind the curtains who run high finance can let loose the FBI and media on you. The media is always looking for the next scandal and the police depts can tap your phone line etc.
Most telling is that the cast of characters in this drama were all tainted. No one escapes dirt, indictment or accusation. His political rivals in Albany and the bankers CEO's were all eventually indicted or fired or publicly ruined.
My favorite part is the ending clip where media pimp Geraldo Rivera asks the former escort who thinks she can be a singer to leave us with X-mas song. Wow, not even Geraldo can resist feeding at the trough of public scandal and pseudo indignation.