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1. Frost / Nixon (2008), dir Ron Howard

Seen last night at the Cottage Road cinema with ms_siobhan and planet_andy.

I didn't expect to be so absolutely gripped by this, but it really was enthralling. At micro level, it focusses entirely on the preparations for and recording of the series of interviews which Nixon gave to David Frost in 1977, but in the process it casts a very searching light indeed over the nature of politics and the media and the relationship between them.

Martin (oops!) Michael Sheen and Frank Langella are absolutely brilliant as the nervous young Frost and the ageing and embittered Nixon respectively, managing to capture the mannerisms and speech patterns of their subjects beautifully without ever coming across as slavish impressionists. And I very much liked the device of having most of the major secondary characters appearing not only within the story itself, but also in 'talking head' guise, looking back on their experience of the interviews from a perspective in what appears to be something like the early '80s. It was a great way of allowing the interviews to be commented on from a position of hindsight at the same time as presenting the unfolding process as it occurred, which was important given that one of the main things the film wanted to do was emphasise the contrast between the eventual success of the project and the risk of total failure which had been run along the way.

That said, I think it would also be incautious to be too easily swayed by a film which demonstrates so clearly the persuasive and distorting power of the screen (small or large). It's fairly clearly mythologising both Frost and the interviews, and it presents Nixon's final confessions about Watergate as a crushing and unexpected defeat for him. But I find it hard to believe that so canny and manipulative a politician as Nixon would really have allowed himself to be pushed by Frost into saying anything he didn't entirely want to say anyway. And then again, we do in fact see Nixon's Chief of Staff looking back on the interviews a few years later on and saying that he felt they had been a success - so maybe the possibility that Nixon knew exactly what he was doing is allowed for as well.

Anyway, I very much enjoyed the close treatment of such a fascinating moment in the history of both television and politics. I'll be looking out to see how this one does at the Oscars.

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Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
ingenious76
Jan. 30th, 2009 09:58 pm (UTC)
I'm planning on seeing this on Sunday. Your review is making me really look forward to it!
strange_complex
Jan. 30th, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy it. Will look forward to seeing what you think.
ingenious76
Jan. 31st, 2009 11:55 am (UTC)
I'm seeing it tonight. Its a late showing, but I reckon I'll manage to keep awake!
(Deleted comment)
strange_complex
Jan. 30th, 2009 11:17 pm (UTC)
I find it amusing that the role I knew him best for before this was Dracula. It's like he was in training for Nixon all that time...
(Deleted comment)
ms_siobhan
Jan. 30th, 2009 11:29 pm (UTC)
I'd like to think Nixon had an attack of conscience and that was why he finally admitted to wrong doing or rather doing something not worthy of the office of president, but that he could never have done that without being entrapped into it, I think he wanted to be made to say sorry rather than sorry of his own bat - if that makes sense.

It was one of the most engrossing and captivating films I've seen in ages.
strange_complex
Jan. 30th, 2009 11:48 pm (UTC)
I do think he wanted to be 'trapped' into admitting to what he'd done, but I really doubt it was because of an attack of conscience. I'd say it's more likely he hoped that would make people see him as more human and vulnerable, and forgive him for it.

But yeah, I'm right with you on the engrossment and the captivation. I was really spellbound.
kissmeforlonger
Jan. 31st, 2009 12:04 am (UTC)
(psst, Michael Sheen - I saw him the other night in Underworld - sublime to ridiculous or what!).

I'm looking forward to seeing this film.
strange_complex
Jan. 31st, 2009 01:55 pm (UTC)
Oops, yeah! Have just corrected that. I did actually manage to look up the right one on IMDb after seeing the film, though, and noticed the Underworld role. Hey, whatever pays his mortgage...
deeply_spurious
Jan. 31st, 2009 12:29 pm (UTC)
thanks for that - I was wondering if it might be worth seeing.
strange_complex
Jan. 31st, 2009 01:56 pm (UTC)
Yup, I'd say definitely.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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