The recent Oscar-winning doc Inside Job gave a very clear
picture of Wall Street’s complicity in the massive economic downturn (or
depression as they used to be known), which affected millions of people
with almost no perceptible affect on the perpetrators and their
cronies. One of the characters in this film (and there were some pretty
shady ones) was Eliot Spitzer, the former New York Governor, and
Attorney General before that. As Attorney General, Spitzer was known as “The Sheriff of Wall Street”,
and made it his mission to clean up the town by going after the big
guys who were overseeing some of the shoddiest financial practices seen
for decades. As the story of the charismatic, well-to-do, family man
Spitzer starts to unfold in Alex Gibney’s documentary, it is clear that
his righteous derring-do was going to have serious consequences. You don’t go after the super-rich without some sort of repercussions.
Spitzer’s tenacity and wholesome image as Attorney General made him a
lot more popular with the masses, and he became state governor with an
overwhelming 69% of the vote: and that’s when it all started to go down
hill. As Uncle Ben’s parting words to Peter Parker went: “With great
power comes great responsibility”. Men of power tend to have two weaknesses sex and/or money, and Spitzer was comfortably wealthy.
Unfortunately for Spitzer, his predilection for a bit of expensive,
discreet, extramarital stress relief was captured on a Federal wiretap
and his career was brought to an abrupt end (unlike President Clinton
and many others who remained in office – and we won’t even mention
Client 9 investigates Spitzer’s demise and how he got embroiled in the world of high-class prostitutes
and a government investigation into their activities. It’s all about
dirty politics. While it is never openly admitted, Spitzer’s adversaries
infer that they may have had a hand in it, as revenge for what he did
in trying to clean up the financial sector. So keen were they to gloat
over this paragon of virtue’s fall from grace that they often say more
on camera than they possibly intended. This makes for riveting and often
funny viewing, as do the irregularities in the official investigations.
Spitzer’s peccadilloes may have brought his promising political career
to end, while the real villains brought the country to its knees, but
the man was contrite and spoke openly about what happened.
Although it is a small chapter from The Inside Job, Client 9 is actually a better film (are you listening Academy?).
Gibney elicits far more candid interviews from all those involved. This
could be partly due to the fact that Gibney got there before Charles
Ferguson, and as the financial world had truly hit the fan, they closed
ranks and were less forthcoming to Ferguson’s more probing questions
about their business activities; but they were more than happy to
(verbally) kick Spitzer while he was down. Client 9 also plays out more
like a drama, or a cop thriller, than The Inside Job’s parade of talking
heads and explanatory diagrams. There is no denying that the two
films make a great double bill. Throw in The Shock Doctrine for good
measure and you may be left feeling despondent for the future of Western
“civilisation”, and thinking that maybe the bliss of ignorance (or
innocence) is a much better state to be in.