Monday, August 13, 2012

"Frost/Nixon" with Frank Langella and Michael Sheen (2009)

When President Richard Nixon left office in 1974, he became the first American President to have been forced from the Presidency in our nation’s history. Although he did not have any part in planning the Watergate break-in, he did use the Office of the President to thwart justice and protect those who had committed the crime. Added to that were his numerous transgressions as President, including the secret war in Cambodia, which destabilized that country,  leading to the Pol Pot regime, which slaughtered another million, or more, innocent people. An apology was the last thing anyone thought that they would hear from him. They were wrong.
From almost the moment that Richard Nixon resigned from office, Australian TV show personality David Frost became obsesses with interviewing him. When his original offer was $250,000 the President refused the interview, as he had done with the major networks here in America. But, when Mr. Frost was able to up the ante to $600,000, Mr. Nixon agreed to do the interview. His only condition was that they not discuss Watergate.
This film covers the negotiations, and finally the actual interviews, in which the two men sparred over several sessions, each seeking to take control of the questions and answers. The former President, who had recently been pardoned by the only un-elected president in our nation’s history, tried to keep the interview contained to soft questions by giving long, benign answers to “soft” questions, thus eating up the allotted time for the interview. Mr. Frost, who had to borrow money from his friends to make the show happen, was beginning to play the fool to Mr. Nixon. But, not for long.
By the last session, Mr. Frost was in a tight spot, he owed $600,000 for an interview which was hardly worth selling. So, he did what he had to do; he got tough; tackling Watergate and hitting the President with hard ball questions, allowing him no room to avoid answering to the American people. These last exchanges produced both the President’s assertion that “When the President does it, it’s not illegal”, as well as his final admission that he had let the people of the country down, and disgraced the Office of the Presidency.
The movie is directed tightly, with the tension and anxiety of the times fully palpable to the viewer. Included in the disc are some excerpts from the actual broadcasts. While these were a great addition to the film, they did underscore the fact that the original interviews far eclipsed the dramatic versions portrayed in the film.
For the real interviews, you can do no better than to watch them on You Tube, which has them split into 6 segments of about 10 minutes apiece. This was historical stuff then, and still resonates today, in an election year fraught with lies and liars. Here is the first part of the actual interview;

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