Release Date: August 30, 2013 (Limited)
Director: Penny Lane
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 7/10
It would be fair to say that most people, especially those born during or after, only know of Nixon through the Watergate scandal and his ultimate resignation. In the 1970s the FBI confiscated thousands of hours of film and audio recordings as they may relate to the Watergate scandal. Amongst the material seized were Super 8 home movies filmed by the likes of H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin, three key figures in Watergate. Once released documentarian Penny Lane seized the opportunity to see what was in there. Her film Our Nixon is the end result of what she uncovered.
Lane’s documentary provides a chronological and historical account of the events surrounding Watergate. We are provided with a unique perspective as we see those events through the eyes, and the lens, of three men who served in prominent positions in the Nixon administration. In addition to the footage we are also shown televised interviews where the three look back on the scandal that tarnished their names and cost them jail sentences. Of particular interest are the recordings where Nixon discusses many things ranging from the press, homosexuality, the TV show “All in the Family” and Watergate itself. We never do learn the ultimate motives behind the break in but we do see and hear how the key figures in the scandal were handling it.
Lane and editor Francisco Bello have expertly compiled and edited footage and recordings that focus on the period from 1969-1974. Lane had the Super 8 footage restored and transferred at 4k to provide the best possible picture. Interestingly when we see the home movies they are presented in a 1.78 aspect ratio and the television segments were presented in 1.33. Their use of the interview footage serves the film well as it provides context and at times hindsight to the events we just witnessed. Lane chose to focus on Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Chapin since this is their story and not Nixon’s alone.
Lane’s film is a fascinating portrait of complex relationship between a President and his staff. They look like a jovial and optimistic bunch. While they may not have agreed on many things they were loyal to the end, even when it seems that the ring leader has thrown them under the bus. This is a unique look at Watergate and it almost feels like you’re on the inside as we hear the intimate conversations between Nixon and his staff. The film doesn’t try to paint Nixon in a more favorable light but aims to provide a more well-rounded presentation of the troubled 37th President of the United States. In the end it will likely have you shaking your head wondering just what were they thinking. It’s a interesting look at American history that is certainly worth a look.