My Fake Candidate

Robert Altman and Cynthia Nixon talk about Tanner

"With the first series, I guess I got in as far as I want to get inside the political process," he says. "This time round, we were mainly looking at ourselves as filmmakers and looking at our flaws rather than someone else's." But he's quick to point out that he didn't put words in the mouths of the many politicians and celebs who have cameos (including Mario Cuomo, Madeleine Albright, and Martin Scorsese). "We didn't give them a script. We said talk about what you want. And we were careful not to edit that in a manipulative way, as opposed to the Michael Moore film, or films of that ilk. We are all Democrats, and that's the politics of our subjects. But I don't think it's propaganda."

At a dire moment like this one, documentary filmmaking seems like a soft target, and Altman's assault on Alex, the "liberal do-gooder," could be seen as an odd intervention at a time when there's no shortage of liberal-bashing. Still, Tanner on Tanner gives Alex and her fellow Dems plenty of chances to unleash their rage on Dubya. "When you look at the insanity in Iraq right now . . . that's when you realize the extraordinary amount of harm that a single person sitting in the Oval Office can inflict on the world," Alex tells her own camera. "OK, so George Bush is not getting semen stains on the carpet, but you're telling me he's brought honor to his office?" In his entertaining and deliberately unfocused way, Altman once again uses a jumble of fiction and fact to evoke the American malaise.

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