Monday Movie: The Trials of Henry Kissinger, by David Bax
Alex Gibney’s new film, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, is a devastating and exhaustive dismantling of the myths and the cult of personality surrounding its subject. The film (which is quite good) is so bald faced in its desire to tarnish Jobs that it put me in mind of another documentary, one from 2002, that I was not surprised to find was produced by Gibney himself.
The Trials of Henry Kissinger was directed by Eugene Jarecki, who is the brother of the more famous and flashy documentarian Andrew Jarecki and who has cultivated quite a career himself, having directed among other things the excellent 2012 look at drug policy and the U.S. prison system, The House I Live In. That was a sober and humanistic account of the causes and effects of sentencing and incarceration. Trials, on the other hand, is comparatively sensationalistic, not in its tone but in the staggering volume of information and the speed with which it is delivered. In a mere 80 minutes, Jarecki makes such a towering case for Kissinger as a flagrant war criminal, it’s difficult to believe he was never prosecuted. When I saw the film thirteen years ago at the Gene Siskel Film Center, I half expected to exit the theater into a world where Kissinger had already been arrested.
What’s most compelling (not to mention refreshing, in a post-Michael Moore landscape) is that Trials, while unapologetically one-sided, is never disingenuous (this is true of Gibney’s Steve Jobs as well). While you are, of course, free to make up your own mind when it comes to how you feel about the information presented, you won’t get the impression you’ve been lied to. In one of the few negative reviews you’ll find linked on Rotten Tomatoes, John Powers’ pull-quote is, “Gibney and Jarecki just want to string the bastard up.” Well, given the nature of what they believe his crimes to be and the evidence they provide, how can you blame them?