At the starting of “The Brink,” Stephen Okay. Bannon seems, as he typically does, sporting two shirts and wielding two cellphones. In the course of this fast-moving, tightly packed, at occasions unnervingly entertaining documentary (directed by Alison Klayman), he wears a quantity of metaphorical hats, some of that are knocked off his head.
Bannon flies round the United States, assembly with and campaigning for Republican candidates loyal to President Trump, together with Roy Moore in Alabama. He flies round Europe, assembly with members of far-right events, together with France’s National Rally (previously the National Front) and the Brothers of Italy. Given his strolling papers by the White House in the wake of the murderous Charlottesville, Va., “Unite the Right” rally, Bannon is ultimately dumped from Breitbart News and minimize unfastened by distinguished monetary backers. The New Yorker disinvites him from its pageant. None of that appears to faze him a lot.
A monster to his ideological foes and an occasional embarrassment to his allies, Bannon possesses a curious sort of charisma. “The Brink,” which made its debut at Sundance in January, is the second documentary about him to emerge from the pageant circuit in the previous 12 months. (The different one, Errol Morris’s “American Dharma,” has but to safe distribution in the United States.) Bannon likes consideration, and journalists and filmmakers like to provide it to him.
This is partly as a result of, in spite of his frequent statements of contempt for “lefties,” “the opposition party” and “the fake news” — kind of synonyms in his lexicon — he clearly enjoys the firm of these adversaries. He’s all the time recreation for a debate or a bull session. The solely occasions he loses his cool are when underlings or colleagues disappoint him.
Klayman, whose earlier topics embody the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and the Cuban-American painter Carmen Herrera, spent more than a year filming Bannon in the air, on the road and in his Washington townhouse. She captures a lot of interviews with reporters (from publications that include Politico, The Guardian and The New York Times), in which Bannon is friskily combative but almost never hostile.
He gives good quotes. He contradicts himself. He spars over facts and semantics, generally in gruff good humor. After an appearance on British television, he is almost giddy at the toughness of the questions he faced. “This movie is going to crush me,” he says with a smile, referring to the fact that it frequently shows him, an avowed populist class warrior, on private jets and in five-star hotel suites.
Bannon’s sometimes ironic demeanor and perpetually rumpled appearance may be temperamental attributes, but they are also tactics. He looks like he’s having fun, while his opponents appear humorless in their indignation. Depending on who he’s talking to, he can be coy about some of his views and alliances. He adamantly denies that attacks on George Soros or nefarious “globalists” are anti-Semitic code, and denies that some of his European confreres are really the heirs to Fascism they resemble to the naked eye. He may seem to treat politics as a grand game, but there is no doubt that he takes himself and his beliefs seriously and that he has weaponized his own personality in the service of what he views as a revolutionary cause.
“The Brink” is movie that people who hate Bannon may embrace — they are surely the intended audience — but that doesn’t mean Bannon himself will hate it. It both exposes and flatters his vanity. His ego is the film’s ostensible subject and connective tissue, but also something of a red herring.
In a little more than 90 minutes, Klayman races through hundreds of news cycles from 2017 and 2018, inducing an especially acute version of the information whiplash that characterizes the Trump era. Horror alternates with grim comedy. Events you may have forgotten about collide with others you can’t believe took place so long ago, or so recently. Bannon harks back to earlier moments — Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” speech; the scandal he calls “Billy Bush week” — as if they were Civil War battles. In a sense, they are.
The war as he understands it extends beyond particular battleground states or congressional districts, though he pays close attention to those. What Bannon calls the nationalist-populist movement — there are other, more precise names for it — has scored victories in Hungary, Poland, the Philippines and Brazil, and his current project is to knit together like-minded, far-flung rightists in an antiliberal, anti-immigrant counterglobalism.
There is a lot of money behind this, and it would be interesting to know whose. But money is one topic around which Bannon insists on discretion, shooing Klayman away when terms are being talked. He is otherwise remarkably transparent about his goals and theories, as if he has nothing to fear from exposure. Which is, frankly, terrifying.
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