- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2006

“Giuliani Time” is an unflattering documentary feature about former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The movie, booked exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema, is directed by Kevin Keating, formerly a photographer on notable documentary features directed by Barbara Kopple and the team of David and Albert Maysles.

Mr. Keating and his principal source, the former Village Voice reporter Wayne Barrett, also the author of a critical bio of Mr. Giuliani, share a motive that looks to the future more than the past: averting a Giuliani campaign for the presidency. (Is anyone surprised that this weekend Mr. Giuliani gets roasted in a polemical documentary while next week Al Gore gets the credulous-deferential treatment in another, “An Inconvenient Truth”?)

Outsiders might be ignorant of the sinister connotations in Mr. Keating’s title. “It’s Giuliani Time” reportedly originated as a threatening quip among New York City cops when brutalizing suspects. While this attribution remains more plausible as urban myth than historical fact, the phrase itself has acquired a gospel veracity with Giuliani detractors, conspicuously overrepresented in the movie’s selection of talking heads.

Of the 16 participants singled out in the press kit, only three qualify as sympathetic observers: Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican; business tycoon Donald Trump; and Manhattan Institute honcho Myron Magnet, whose Dickensian sideburns may appear a discrediting affectation in and of themselves.

There’s something to be said for “Giuliani Time” as a cinematic recap of a dynamic as well as checkered and controversial career. Mr. Giuliani has some dubious episodes to live down, dating to his expedient endorsement of the Duvalier regime while trying to grapple with the problem of Haitian emigres in the early 1980s from his post in the Justice Department. (On the absurdly bewildering side, I’ve never understood his playful penchant for annual cross-dressing masquerades while serving as mayor. The movie excerpts a supremely grotesque example, a skit that matches Mr. Giuliani, in dowager drag, with a pseudo-flirty Donald Trump.)

The emphasis of the substantive arguments in “Giuliani Time” is that the mayor’s methods of combating the social squalor evident in New York during the 1960s and 1970s were overrated at best and vicious at worst. Business improvements and a declining crime rate are credited to the Democratic mayor who preceded him, David Dinkins. Business incentives under Mr. Giuliani (1994-2001) are dismissed as giveaways to corporate greed; aggressive, proactive police measures are deplored as a prelude to zealotry and scandal.

Mr. Barrett, entrusted with much of the narrative thread, describes himself as a former admirer. He once thought that he and Mr. Giuliani “shared values” when the latter was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and specialized in prosecuting mobsters or white-collar miscreants. Disillusionment ensued, resulting in a critical biography a few years ago and now this cautionary document, necessitated by the unforeseen turnaround in Mr. Giuliani’s reputation after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

It’s a coldblooded fact that for a lot of anti-Giuliani New Yorkers, September 11 was essentially an undeserving break for the mayor. Before his heroic response to calamity, adversaries regarded him as a political lame duck who was on the ropes once and for all.

At one melodramatic juncture, Mr. Barrett poses under the ramparts of Sing Sing to underline one of the shockers in his book: The mayor’s father served time there, a decade before Mr. Giuliani was born; both father and a maternal uncle had mob connections. Mr. Barrett also hints that it was these skeletons in the closet, and not the onset of prostate cancer, that prompted Mr. Giuliani to abandon a senatorial campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2000.

Politicians frequently betray the fond illusions of writers who think of themselves as potential soul mates or cronies. Wayne Barrett and Kevin Keating permit themselves to wallow in an excess of moldy indignation and bitterness while formulating a pre-emptive strike at someone who probably intends to pass on the 2008 race. Watch for these two to take credit for scaring him off.


TITLE: “Giuliani Time”

RATING: No MPAA Rating (adult subject matter, with occasional profanity and graphic allusions to crimes)

CREDITS: Directed by Kevin Keating. Principal photography by Mustafa Barat, Elia Lyssey and Wolfgang Lehner. Editing by Peter Tooke. Music by David Carbonara

RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes

WEB SITE: www.giulianitime.com


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