Action / Biography / Crime / Documentary / History
Action / Biography / Crime / Documentary / History
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Never before seen Super 8 home movies filmed by Richard Nixon's closest aides - and convicted Watergate conspirators - offer a surprising and intimate new look into his Presidency..
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
Aug 15, 2021 at 04:54 PM
grade Movie Reviews
An Odd Retelling of the familiar Nixon Story, but this time it is Super 8 Home Video Version
Our Nixon seemed to be well-received in its North American premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX. This film is a compilation of footage of the Nixon years composed of archival footage from the era, interviews with participants, contemporary audio recordings of public events, audio of the Nixon White House tapes, and most peculiarly never before Super 8 home videos taken by Nixon aides H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin. The film, while clearly critical of Nixon, seems to be attempting to humanize Nixon and his aides by providing an up close and personal view of him and those closest to him. But what emerges isn't particularly informative. The film seems to retell many familiar events: the winding down of the Vietnam War, the release of the Pentagon Papers, Nixon's Visit to China, and the Watergate Scandal (among others) without providing much that is historically new or different from many previous re-tellings of these events. The home videos provide a slightly different shading of events, but nothing that is particularly startling or new. The Nixon White House tapes have been in the public domain for many years so that we've already heard much about Nixon's paranoia and bigotry. The film is entertaining, but the overall point seems to be that Nixon was a flawed human being. I think we knew that already.
A favorable, if surface exploration of an immensely checkered administration
The video camera and the audio recorder are two of the most powerful tools ever to be invented in human history, mainly because they are so neutral no matter what is placed in front of them. They are designed to do one thing and that is to capture whatever is placed in front of them or around them, along with playing the audio/video back at any given time. It's no doubt both tools can be abused if put into the wrong hands, but it's also no doubt that the tools can be used to seek out the truth in times of uncertainty.Penny Lane's Our Nixon is a documentary that uses archival video footage from the time of Nixon's presidency, along with an extensive library of audio files, to tell the story of Nixon's presidency in his own words. After the famous Watergate trials, over five-hundred Super 8 reels were put in a government vault and left untouched for many years. How the team behind Our Nixon obtained a great deal of them is a mystery, but many of them are compiled into a film that plans to allow Nixon and his cabinet a voice if decades have passed since the scandal. The result is an interesting, albeit listless documentary that functions with enough satisfaction to delight viewers and history-hounds.The footage we are watching is directed by Nixon's chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, his domestic affairs adviser John Ehrlichman, or his personal assistant Dwight Chapin, all of which were tried in the Watergate trials. The archival footage shows many things, whether it be Nixon's vacations or trips, his speeches, or simply traditional actions carried out in the White House. The most interesting tidbits are when recordings of from the White House wiretaps are played, one of which housing Nixon's opinion of the homosexuality on TV's All in the Family. Other wiretapping instances show an occasionally vulgar Nixon commenting on the current world and his presidency in a nicely unfiltered manner. Also spliced in are news reports and older interviews with Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Chapin, which provide for an opinion on the aftermath of Watergate and the Nixon presidency.Our Nixon hits documentary-heights when pieces of information like this manage to slip through the cracks. When it plays long, disjointed videos and clobbers them together without much of a thesis or underlying commentary, it becomes monotonous. The recordings allow for a deeper and less filtered look at the president. The recordings (and the videos) were never intended to be seen by anyone outside of the tight-knit White House circle, so the fact that we're grateful enough to see this material is a miracle. Because of this, Nixon talks in an unsurprising but notably lax manner, and we are presented with a man not diluted by the presence of TV cameras or a microphone; just him and his thoughts.It's only a shame that Lane and her crew weren't able to string along these clips with continuity and a clear message. The entire idea and goal of this project was to establish a more intimate view on Nixon as a president and a man subject to enough trouble and bad-press to eventually resign from being the President of the United States. It succeeds at its goal to an extent, but evidently confuses intimacy for traditionalism and commonality in routine. Nothing here is as shocking or, more importantly, interesting as the producers and filmmakers seem to think, leaving a large hole in the documentary's ultimate goal.There's entertainment in the documentary. The only real issue is that I'm afraid even those who read history religiously will find Our Nixon a bit lacking in that department. By the time Watergate is introduced, the film seems to go down a similar paths a historical, political documentary would. The aforementioned entertainment stems from the authenticity of the audio recordings and the home movies, which keep the film at least buoyant as a gimmick. It's just a little upsetting to report that there is no attempt at a formal thesis to give a documentary like this more life and meaning other than surface-level exploration.Starring: Richard Nixon, H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, Dwight Chapin, Henry Kissinger, Ron Ziegler, and Larry Higby. Directed by: Penny Lane.
A Voyeur's Delight, But Don't Look For Anything Too Deep
Robert Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin all worked as insiders in Richard Nixon's White House. They had one other thing in common: all three apparently liked to take home movies, and they took a lot of them during their time on Nixon's staff. Given the medium, this turns out to be basically what you would expect - not a documentary filled with new revelations about Watergate or Vietnam, but a personal look at the centre of power; a voyeuristic experience for the viewer more than anything.Nixon was a complicated man. A consummate politician whose public persona was nothing like the private man. But that's already well documented. This film merely reinforces what we basically already knew about him. Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Chapin are all spliced into this in excerpts from later interviews. The most interesting part of this is probably from those interviews when they discuss the fallout from Watergate, that eventually led to all three of them resigning from the White House and eventually serving time in prison. Otherwise, there's not much new information about anything to be found here, but it is a voyeur's delight. (7/10)
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