dirs. Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro, Morgan Pehme, USA, 2017
premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival (Netflix)
Is there a man still alive who is proud to be called a dirty trickster, and who still has a collection of Richard Nixon memorabilia? It’s Roger Stone. And no, he’s not the crazy guy who hosts the daily conspiratorialist radio talk show. He only co-hosts it one day a week.
Roger Stone wanted for a long time to have his friend Donald Trump run for president. It happened. Trump won – thanks, Stone’s critics say, to some help from Russia and from Roger Stone. And now a man who was a lobbyist for brutal foreign dictatorships (and still may have friends in those places) has the ear of the president. Where do you find the laugh lines here?
The two men, Stone and Trump, share more than dyed blonde hair. Each operates on the fringe of acceptable politics – Stone as a veteran schemer and Trump as a battering ram – and each is tolerated because he can or could get results. Each is a protégé of the lawyer Roy Cohn, the man who solved most legal disputes with a single phone call.
The doc’s directors – Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro, Morgan Pehme – are described affectionately enough by Stone as liberals whenever the crew and subject run into someone Stone knows. The filmmakers have found what every film needs: a character that the audience keeps watching. It helps that this character is a villain who plays by what seems to be his own set of rules. Or are they? Stone’s rules are simple enough. His politics, shaped by Nixon, Reagan and the profit motive, shift on the border between libertarian and conservative. And if this film is any indication, he loves to make money, and doesn’t seem to care how loathsome his clients are. Yet he may also be friends with Julian Assange.
Forget about the suspension of disbelief. This is a documentary, a non-fiction film, after all. We’re dealing with the suspension of morality.
And forget about story as the crucial matrix for a doc. Stone is the story. All you need to do is follow him around.
It helps that Stone is also a wily entertainer, a man with a silly sense of costuming (does he get the joke here?), and a dark sense of humor about politics that’s unencumbered by a conscience. Is this a man whom you want close to the man with his hand on the nuclear trigger?
Consider one of his recent public statements, which has been quoted in articles about the investigations of his ties to Russians and to lobbyists like his pal Paul Manafort, who work with them. The subject was Trump’s competence as commander-in-chief, and the suspicion that the president has Alzheimer’s Disease. If Stone hadn’t brought it up, who would have thought of it?
“I’ve talked to the president fairly recently – he is sharp as a tack. There is no evidence of any deterioration in his thought process. This is completely bogus,” Stone declared.
An old friend. Beware of friends like that. But make sure you see this film about the blonde guy behind the blonde guy with the red tie.
Views expressed on this blog, which is hosted on BlouinArtinfo.com but produced independently of it, do not necessarily reflect the views of BlouinArtinfo.com.