Admirable for its breadth but less so for its decidedly off-balance politics, director Kevin Keating's Giuliani Time is an incredibly passionate piece of propaganda, ostensibly engaging in a clear-eyed assessment of former New York City mayor and Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani's ascent into the national spotlight but devolves into so much character assassination. As many others have noted in their reviews, it's a film maverick documentarian Michael Moore could be proud of.
The film's largest handicap is, of course, that Giuliani, at no time, turns up to defend himself or explain any of his actions, an enormous list of which are covered during the film's generous 130-minute run time. Keating has no problem trotting one source after another for often scathing interview segments, although through file footage and archival recordings, Giuliani does have some presence (although the tactic only serves to underscore whatever point Keating is trying to make). Let me be clear: I'm in no way sticking up for Giuliani, but trying to pass off a film about a man's life and work with no contribution from the very person you're profiling is laughable at best and grossly misleading at worst.
So what're you left with? A fairly by-the-numbers account of Giuliani's rise from humble, hard-working beginnings to a prime seat in the Reagan administration, to the role of mayor cleaning up a crime-ridden New York City as well as grappling with the fall-out from the 9/11 attacks. Plenty of interesting concepts are touched upon -- Giuliani's embrace of the controversial "broken windows" policing tactics, his fondness for slashing welfare rolls, his uncomfortable alliances with the New York City police force -- but none are explored with any appreciable depth. Keating simply trots out his stable of talking heads to make his points and moves on.
With Giuliani out of the 2008 presidential race, it's not clear what the former mayor's next move will be. It's likely he'll remain in the public eye, perhaps continuing to give speeches and run his consulting firm, maybe even trying again for a run at the White House. While Giuliani Time is far from flattering (or even fair), it does suggest that a fascinating, compelling work of documentary filmmaking could be wrung from his polarizing, very public life. Keating's ambitious, but one-sided, work is not that film. It merits a look for the very curious, but those with an interest in an impartial exploration of the man and his public deeds should move along.
A mixture of newly filmed interviews, still photographs and archival footage, the quality of this 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer is mostly consistent -- the few instances of artifacting and softness aside -- but the visual quality is fair to poor throughout, owing to the vast array of source material. It is what it is and Giuliani Time probably looks as good as it ever will.
Much like the visuals, the aural end of things also enjoys a consistent presentation but great variances in quality and fidelity. The Dolby 2.0 stereo track does what it can to convey dialogue (the newly filmed interviews are perfectly clear) but more than a few archival sequences feature muddy or distorted sound. Again, the vast array of source material is what's problematic here.
Tellingly, there's not a supplement to be found aside from some trailers for other Cinema Libre titles.
While Giuliani Time is far from flattering (or even fair), it does suggest that a fascinating, compelling work of documentary filmmaking could be wrung from his polarizing, very public life. Director Kevin Keating's ambitious, but one-sided, work is not that film. It merits a look for the very curious, but those with an interest in an impartial exploration of the man and his public deeds should move along. Rent it.