Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1984. Screenplay by Donald Freed, Arnold M. Stone, based on their play. Cinematography by Pierre Mignot. Produced by Robert Altman. Music by George Burt. Production Design by Stephen Altman. Film Editing by Juliet Weber.
Richard Nixon sits alone in his office and records a memo: his intention is to solidify information for his biographer to use in a forthcoming publication, but over the period of ninety minutes, this one-man show turns into a showcase of Philip Baker Hall‘s talent as he captures the frustrations of a fallen idol trying to hold on to his last shreds of potency. Nixon looks back on his spotty record in the White House, particularly in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, and tries to be objective in his reminiscence but it isn’t long before emotions take over and he is trapped in a cycle of blame upon everyone but himself. It isn’t much longer before the alcohol takes over and he’s begging to be returned to the arms of his mother. Robert Altman filmed this adaptation of the Donald Freed and Arnold M. Stone play while he was teaching at the University of Michigan (much of his crew was made up of his students), and he made one of his strongest works in years. Abandoning his habit of large casts and loosely blocked scenes, here he presents a sharp, concise and exact work that benefits greatly from Hall’s superb charisma and rich voice.
The Criterion Collection: #257