Voyeur is a documentary premiering on Netflix in December that tells some fascinating aspects of the story behind Gay Talese’s book The Voyeur’s Motel. For decades, Gerald Foos, a motel owner in Denver, Colorado, used his business for an experiment in voyeurism. Foos constructed an observation deck across the vents in his motel to observe the occupants in each room. His primary interest was sex. Early on in the film, the viewer learns about Foos’ fascinations as he recounts numerous stories of what people did in his motel decades ago. From sex to sleeping to eating to murder. Yes, Foos claims to have witnessed a murder. Even worse is that Foos may be responsible for the murder after he tampered with items in that customer’s room.

Picture of Gay Talese

Gay Talese

The interesting twist about the documentary is that is follows journalist Gay Talese as he interviews Foos about this motel. Once a reporter for The New York Times from 1956 to 1965, Talese is now  freelance writer, work on this piece for The New Yorker  and trying to ultimately get a book published. The film then takes a very metaphorical turn from that point when the name “voyeur” comes up. Foos insists that he isn’t a peeping Tom. That instead, he is this voyeur that simply observes the lives of other people. In thought, journalists are voyeurs, which makes Gay Talese and the documentary crew of the film both voyeurs as well.

An illustrative part of the film that is used quite effectively are these scenes of Foos opening the parts of a miniature model of the motel to illustrate his habits. The reason that filmmakers Myles Kane and Josh Koury made this decision is because the building in which Foos had his motel was demolished. The technique is done effectively and gets the idea across.

The film ends with controversy as the Washington Post steps in to question the accuracy Talese’s article that was published in The New Yorker, which leads to questions about Talese’s book right after it is published. Talese could neither confirm nor deny the reporting done to back the validity of his book and there are many questions left as to what really happened throughout previous decades. Overall, it is an interesting watch for any viewer and in particular, journalists. The film raises a lot of questions when it comes to the approach that journalists should have when reporting on and telling a story.

About Emil Lippe