Saturday, February 7, 2009

FROST/NIXON


Growing up in British cities, where the geography of a night out at the cinema is most likely to take you to an out-of-town Retail and Leisure Development and post-film drinks to a nearby franchised theme bar housed in a car park, seeing Frost/Nixon at Terez körút's Muvesz Mozi felt like a most metropolitan night out.

The film is one of a recent crop that approaches its historical moment through broadcasting history, opening out a televisual event to give us a second look at the twentieth century. In a time where we're more conscious than ever of media machinations and subterfuge, it's both refreshing and heartening to watch these paeans to the power of television. Frost/Nixon is a love letter to the vigour and thrust of TV's liberal, righteous origins. Though its plot eeks out the suspense of Frost's team snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, what's most significant isn't Frost's unexpected political nous or grilling technique, nor Nixon's slippery evasions, but television itself. As screenwriter Peter Morgan admits in his Front Row interview on Radio Four, the real triumph is in the editing process, zooming and cropping Nixon's derelict close-up.

In the end, however, the film is hoist by its own petard. After the first day of filming, where Frank Langella's fantastically prunish and perspirant Nixon has derailed the interview with 23-minute homilies, Frost's team warn him against the perils of humanising the former president. Via the screenwriters extra-factual additions (like Nixon's drunk, self-pitying telephone call to Frost's hotel suite), the film does just that.

Less vigourously and angrily political than Goodnight and Good Luck by far, then, but still an evocative period piece.

3 comments:

Sazzie said...

Saw this today and agree with you wholeheartedly.

I am however, worried that Micheal Sheen will soon become my image of every public figure in the world ever.

Jennifer Hodgson said...

I know! Did you know he had Brian Clough (in The Damned United) and Tony Blair again (in a film about Cherie Blair that I overheard JK gabbing about not two minutes ago).

Hm. One wonders why he gets picked for all these portrayals. If we were taking just Frost & Blair, I guess you might put it down to a certain smooth rictusness, but add Cloughie in there and I've no bloody explanation.

J

Sazzie said...

I did know that he's playing Cloughie, didn't know he was playing Blair again though. He was creepily good at Blair in The Queen (I found that whole film creepy if I'm honest).

He's obviously a very good mimic as well as being a good actor, but he might want to watch himself, my housemate's posh, ignorant girlfriend said "I've got the DVD of the original interviews, you should watch them so you can see how good the impressions are"...