Oh Mr. Nixon.
Last night the Royal screened Our Mr. Nixon by Penny Lane, and it proved to be an entertaining, occasionally angering, and often humorous look at one of the most infamous of all American presidents.
After the Watergate scandal the federal government seized over 500 reels of super8 film and kept it locked away for over 40 years. Culling through the material, as well as news broadcasts to keep everything in historical context, Lane and her team crafted a film that rockets along compiled from archival material only.
3 White House employees, the Deputy Assistant Dwight Chapin, Chief of Staff H.R. “Bob” Halderman and Assistant to Domestic Affairs John Ehrlichman were rarely without their cameras when Tricky Dick took office, and everything seems to end up on their cameras; visiting dignitaries, family weddings, flights on Air Force One, parties, giving us an unprecedented look at the Nixon White House.
There are phone calls, there are the notorious Watergate tapes, and there is Nixon’s betrayal and distancing himself from these men who gave their all for him.
Nixon is portrayed as a man who had to be in complete control, right down to the tiniest minutiae. Strongly opinionated and incredibly conservative in his beliefs, his presidency over saw the landing on the moon, the struggle of the Vietnam conflict and the historical precedence of a U.S. president going to China.
There are wonderful remarks and scenes made, Nixon’s opinion of a show featuring a character named Archie Bunker, his opinion of Kissinger, a rebellious Ray Coniff singer performing in the White House and one of the aides made this remark… “A brilliantly lighted, badly written television show.”
It’s amazing to watch as the film progresses as the first rumors of Watergate appear and begin to inch closer to the Oval Office. Nixon, who simply could have tried to distance himself (if it wasn’t for those damned tapes which he himself oversaw the installation of the voice-activated recording devices), simply betrays one aide after another, hanging them out to dry, and not even having the courtesy to do it himself but to have his Press Secretary, Ron Ziegler, do it.
The film focuses more on the trio of men around Nixon, and their time in his service, and after over a years worth of editing and finding the right pace and tone of the film, Lane has come away a winner with this one. It’s a hugely entertaining piece offering a glimpse into the heady days of the late 60s early 70s when things were changing every day, and the square who was in the office presiding over it all.
Remember to stay for the sting after the credits, HILARIOUS!
Our Nixon screens again Monday April 29 at 3pm at the Lightbox and Sunday May 5 at 1:30pm at the Bloor Cinema.
What are you seeing today?