Wonder Woman
Broers
La región salvaje
En amont du fleuve
Daughters of the Dust
No-One Sets Out to Be a Bad President

Our Nixon

United States, 2013 | Penny Lane
Boyd van Hoeij checked in from Paris to report on Our Nixon and finds that its home movie footage of the Nixon administration looses steam as the Watergate scandal erupts.

500 reels of Super-8 footage were confiscated during the Watergate investigation. These White House home movies of sorts were shot by Nixon's Chief of Staff, H.R. 'Bob' Haldeman, Advisor to the President John Ehrlichman, Special Assistant to the President Dwight Chapin and Deputy Assistant Larry Higby. The documentary Our Nixon combines excerpts from 208 reels of this until now unseen footage with contemporary audio and TV news clips as well as later interviews (some of those who handled camera duties have since died; Higby was the only one who didn't serve a prison sentence in connection with Watergate).

Director Penny Lane and producer Brian L. Frye start their film with Nixon's inauguration and there's a clear optimism that emanates not only from the soundbites — "I never laughed as much as in the Nixon White House", one of the interviewers states — but also from the footage, which has a familiar behind-the-scenes feel that, it must be noted, would probably have struck a contemporary audience as quite novel.

Since the four cameramen (Higby gets the least attention here, so it more often feels like a trio) were part of Nixon's inner circle, they get access to all the events at the White House, including high-profile performances by well-known artists; private family moments of the Nixons and state visits including a ground-breaking, for the time, visit to China. The Chinese state visit has snarky comments from the statesmen-turned-cameramen about how Nixon applauding at the end of what's clearly been a Communist propaganda ballet would be badly received in any other context. There's an interesting mise-en-abyme of themes here, brought about at least partially unwittingly, as the footage the men were shooting was clearly intended, somewhere down the line, to create an entirely positive (read: propaganda-like) portrait of Nixon himself as a statesman who, amongst many other achievements, opened negotiations with China.

Because Nixon has been the only President of the United States who has resigned (or was made to resign) to date, his name doesn't have the ring of success and nostalgia to it that some of the names of other past presidents do. The Super-8 footage that Our Nixon shows, however, is an important reminder of the fact that no one sets out to be a bad president and that pure badness or even evil still emanates from human beings who might be flawed but were thinking they were doing the right thing at the time (no one consciously sets himself up for failure — but when discussing Nixon, or even Hitler for that matter, people tend to forget that). There's a sense of joy and optimism in the early reels of Our Nixon that's infectious, until, about halfway through, the directors arrive at Nixon's second term (won in a landslide victory) and the Watergate Scandal becomes too big to contain.

The film here arrives in more well-known terrain and seems to rely less and less on the found footage that made the earlier part so interesting. Without a doubt, as the scandal blew up in their faces, the men involved didn't feel like they had to document what was happening to them with their cameras. But this lack of direct footage means that the footage Our Nixon does show to accompany the various audio clips is more tangential, which, combined with the fact this is the most familiar narrative of the Nixon presidency, makes the second half much weaker — although it does contain a single effective contre-emploi. An audio recording of Nixon making a terrible mistake by suggesting he doesn't know something which the person he's talking to actually briefed him on is juxtaposed with Super-8, close-up shots of tulips in a garden, perhaps the White House garden.

Boyd van Hoeij



top
Our Nixon

Filmkrant #351, February 2013

Slow Criticism 2013

Titelindex


ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ1&


O

O AMOR NATURAL
O apóstolo
O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
O FANTASMA
O PRIMEIRO DIA
O SANGUE
O'HORTEN
THE O.J. SIMPSON STORY
O.K. GARAGE
The OA
OASIS
Oasis: Supersonic
OBER
THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION
Oblivion
Ocaso
OCCIDENT
OCEAN WORLD 3D
OCEAN'S 13
OCEAN'S ELEVEN
OCEAN'S TWELVE
OCEANS
OCTOBER SKY
Oculus
THE ODD COUPLE II
ODESSA... ODESSA!
L' ODEUR DE LA PAPAYE VERTE
L' odyssée
OEROEG
OESTERS VAN NAM KEE
OF FREAKS AND MEN
Of Horses and Men
Of ik gek ben
OFF SCREEN
Office Christmas Party
OFFICE KILLER
OFFICE SPACE
Offline
OFFSIDE
Les ogres
Oh Boy
OH HAPPY DAY
OI! WARNING
Okja (Bong Joon-ho over)
Old Cats
OLD DOGS
THE OLD MAN WHO READ LOVE STORIES
OLD SCHOOL
Oldboy
OLDBOY (2003)
Oldboy (2013)
DE OLIFANT EN DE SLAK
OLIVER TWIST
OLIVETTI 82
OLIVIER ETC.
OLIVIER OLIVIER
El olivo
EL OLVIDO
Olympus Has Fallen
Om de wereld in 50 concerten
OMAGH
Omar
Omar m'a tuer
L' OMBRE DU DOUTE
THE OMEN 666
HET OMGEKEERDE PERSPECTIEF (INVERTED PERSPECTIVE)
DE OMWEG
ON A CLEAR DAY
ON CONNAÎT LA CHANSON
ON DEADLY GROUND
ON THE BEAT
ON THE LINE
ON THE MOVE — MIGRATIE IN EUROPA
On the Other Side
On the Road
ONCE
ONCE IN A LIFETIME
Once Upon a Forest
ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA
Once Upon A Time in Anatolia
ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA
ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO
ONCE UPON A TIME...WHEN WE WERE COLOURED
ONCE WERE WARRIORS
Onder de oppervlakte
Onder het hart
Onder ons
HET ONDERGRONDS ORKEST (THE UNDERGROUND ORCHESTRA)
ONDINE
THE ONE
One Day
One Day When the Rain Falls (Rumah dan musin hujan)
One Direction: This Is Us
ONE FINE DAY
One Floor Below (Previously Unreleased)
One for the Money
ONE HOUR PHOTO
The One I Love
One Life
ONE MISSED CALL
ONE NIGHT STAND
ONE PERFECT DAY
ONE WAY TICKET TO OBLIVION
ONG-BAK: MUAY THAI WARRIOR
Only God Forgives
Only Lovers Left Alive
The Only Son
ONLY THE STRONG
ONLY YOU
ONTDAAN
De ontmaagding van Eva van End
De ontsnapping
ONZE EEUW
Onze jongens
DE OOGST VAN DE STILTE
OOGVERBLINDEND
Oorlogsgeheimen
OORLOGSRUST
OORLOGSWINTER
OP AFBETALING
OP EIGEN HOUTJE
OPAL DREAM
OPEN HEARTS
OPEN RANGE
Open Up to Me
OPEN WATER
OPERA JAWA
Operatie Noordpool
OPERATION DUMBO DROP
THE OPPOSITE OF SEX
ORA O MAI PIÙ
ORANGE COUNTY
ORBIS PICTUS
DE ORDENING
ORDINARY DECENT CRIMINAL
ORDINARY MAN
EL ORFANATO
ORGAZMO
Orla de kikkerslikker 3D
ORLANDO
ORPHAN
Orpheline (Arnaud des Pallières en Christelle Berthevas over)
OS MUTANTES
OSAMA
OSCAR AND LUCINDA
OSCAR ET LA DAME ROSE
Oscuro animal
Oslo, 31 August
OSMOSIS JONES
OSS 117: RIO NE REPOND PLUS
OSSOS
THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND
OSWALD
OTHELLO
THE OTHER FINAL
THE OTHER GUYS
THE OTHER MAN
The Other Side (Roberto Minervini over)
The Other Side of Hope
The Other Side of Sleep
THE OTHER SISTER
The Other Woman
THE OTHERS
Otto is een neushoorn
OUDE TONGEN
Ouija
Ouija: Origin Of Evil
Our Beloved Month of August
OUR DAILY BREAD
Our Grand Despair
Our Idiot Brother
Our Kind of Traitor
Our Little Sister (Hirokazu Kore-eda over)
Our Nixon
Out 1
OUT COLD
Out of Love
Out of Nature
OUT OF SIGHT
Out of the Furnace
OUT OF TIME
THE OUT-OF-TOWNERS
OUTBREAK
OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE
Ouwehoeren
Over Canto
OVER HER DEAD BODY
OVER HET MET GEWEREN IN DE LUCHT VUREN
OVER MIJN LIPPEN
OVER THE HEDGE
De overgave
Overlord
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty
OYUN
Oz the Great and Powerful
OZU ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION