May

25

 'Carlos Danger' in his own sex, lies and social malfunction see-all Directed by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg Reviewed by marion d s dreyfus Anthony Weiner's facial bones are very close to the skin, which is stretched like a snake's taut over its typically grimacing expression. It is rarely in repose, depositing a permanent snarl onsite when the camera focuses on him in the astonishingly naked documentary eponymously titled "Weiner: Inside his failed race for City Hall," which goes from the former congressman's yowling days in the fraternity of the city council to his inglory as a sexting disgrace, his sort-of recovery as he lies to feign injured innocence ("I was hacked!") about the tawdry episodes that brought him down. To the revisiting of his 'problem,' scandalizing the city and sailing further daggers into the heart of his powerfully connected spouse, Huma Abedin, arguably the closest adviser to Hillary Clinton for the past decade or so.

Whether you favor Huma or not, she is sufficiently modest, well-behaved, even elegant, that you keep wondering: Why on earth should she stay with this fraught human freighter of recklessness. She leaves the camera frame often, managing to keep her fury and pain at the threshold, but not Vesuvial. Weiner's half-hearted rehab efforts at a do-over fail to resurrect his tarnished image. Carlos Danger by the end is decidedly a grievously self-injured, acrid portrait of what had seemed, years earlier, to be a promising career in public service, even given Weiner's unavoidable tendency to the nasty insult and mantle of entitlement manifested before the Fall. He was a tendentious pit bull for a while, there.

"I have one daughter," remarks Hillary to a camera for some reporter not connected to this film, "but if I had another daughter, it would be Huma." Without a doubt, much of the fascination emanating from the screen is seeing and hearing the hidden mover, Huma, whom most people are familiar with from photos on planes and runways, but have never heard. Even nonfans of the woman cannot help but be stirred to sympathy for this woman clearly at the breaking point. You ask yourself: Why does she stay? What could possibly salve this mess in her private life? What bargain with which devil prevailed on her to stay in his infested nest?

The camera crew is helmed by a former staffer turned filmmaker of the disgraced congressman, so there was a measure, one supposes, of trust before the go-ahead. As the film advances, in taxis and limos, on the streets of colorful Queens and the Bronx, in the chambers and in the arid, underfurnished campaign offices, the audience cannot believe Weiner let this all be caught on tape. The furious meltdowns with constituencies, the titillating and confrontational interviews where he plays possum; arguments with rabbis in Boro Park; the clammily intimate tete-a-tetes in the kitchen with a visibly ambushed and humiliated Huma.

It won a Cannes award for Best Doc, and one can see why. One just does not understand how this peculiar, Denali-size ego and combusting implosive device could spin and pirouette and posture for the 400 hours of footage winnowed down to these cannot-believe-it two hours.

Although the public has right now a surfeit of massive egos, rarely have we seen one so willing to permit a film crew to colonoscopize a man so monumentally unable to stop his sexting tropism. His acid barbs fly, to all and sundry, including to the filmmakers, who come in for some vintage Weiner vitriol.

Not incidentally, it's being lauded as one of the most intensive scrutinies of inside-the-campaign documentaries, ever.


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