If all the Joker hubbub turns you off, there’s another movie out right now about the rise of an egomaniacal supervillain; this one just happens to be a documentary. The beginning of Matt Tyrnauer’s new film feels rushed, but wait… there’s 35 years of psychotic villainy to document in just 90 minutes, beginning at the age of 23 when Cohn led the prosecution against alleged Communist spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Their sensational conviction (and execution) made Cohn a celebrity, landing him a spot next to Senator Joseph McCarthy during the televised Communist witch hunts of the early 1950s.
If the story were fictional, its creator would be accused of anti-Semitism and homophobia. (Cohn eventually dies from an AIDS-related illness in 1986, denying his homosexuality and his HIV status until the end, while using his connections with the Reagans to receive experimental medical treatments.) Tyrnauer keeps returning to Cohn’s parents as the explanation for this uniquely loathsome man, but those explanations never quite stick, even if his mother once left the housekeeper dead in the kitchen because she didn’t want to interrupt the Seder meal.
Presented by NewportFILM, the screening is followed by a Skype Q&A with Tyrnauer.