Once known in certain circles as “the four most dreaded words in the English language,” there’s now a certain wistfulness in the title of Avi Belkin’s documentary Mike Wallace is Here.
Legendary CBS newsman Mike Wallace hasn’t been here since his 2012 death, but perhaps his style of hard-hitting journalism could get us out of out current political nightmare, or maybe even have prevented it from happening. Except that Belkin’s thesis seems to be that no, probably not. Belkin looks back through Wallace’s broadcast career, including Wallace’s early rent-paying days as a chain-smoking commercial pitchman up through his prominence as a journalist who asked the tough questions nobody else was asking.
As Wallace himself finally did in his later years, the picture also examines Wallace’s deep, long-undiagnosed depression — the kind of thing he couldn’t talk about openly even were it diagnosed — and how close it brought him to suicide at the height of his career in the 1980s. Trump’s candidacy began after Wallace’s death — lucky sonofabitch! — but Wallace also dealt with Nixon, who was as terrified of a free press as Trump is now.
Belkin draws direct comparisons between the two, with the horrifying difference that Trump exists in a fractured landscape where people believe his “fake news” rhetoric. It’s 2019, and Sean Hannity is here.
Not rated. Opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.