Monday, March 18, 2013


By D.E.Levine

A New Directors/New Films 2013 Selection

Even if you're too young to have experienced the dark era associated with the Nixon presidency and Watergate scandal, this fascinating documentary comprised of  8mm"home movies" by prominent White House staffers, predominantly H.R.Haldeman, Dwight Chapin and John Ehrlichman is mesmerizing to watch.

Initially we're told that the films sat in a government vault for 40 years and now paired with news footage from the same era we see deeply into the Nixon presidency of 1969-1974.
Everyone looks so young and they were young with young children.  We tend to forget that there were a lot of young people staffing the Nixon White House, even Henry Kissinger is mentioned as being a young, flirtatious bachelor.

Nixon comes across as having an actual sense of humor and being a rather charismatic speaker.  He appears to have been genuinely liked and admired by his staffers, who, when interviewed, still don't consider themselves to be criminals.

Director Penny Lane uses the films primarily to explore the audio recordings made secretively by Nixon rather than to explain the inner workings of the white house.  And there are skillful interweaving of news reports, especially after the Watergate admissions when Haldeman, Chapin and Ehrlichman shot less film.

Regardless of your feelings about Richard Nixon, the film is fascinating to watch,