Saturday, February 5, 2011

Nixon (Oliver Stone)

Nixon, Lincoln, and War.

From "All the President's Men" to the most recent "Frost/Nixon", many films have been created regarding Nixon's shameful stint as U.S. president, yet not a single brave soul dared to chronicle the entirety of his life. Enter Oliver Stone, a man that almost borders political obsession every time he renders topical figures on-screen; a bit too much that his film "JFK" looked like a subjectively self-indulged investigation transformed into a lengthy docudrama. But unlike that previous film, "Nixon" is really far more interested with the man himself than the entirety of his intrigues. The whole film may have deeply focused on highly political places such as the oval office or Mao's communist territory in China, but the editing, along with Oliver Stone's use of highly unsettling cinematic style (playing around with color and black and white), is an expressionistic translation of Nixon's inner disturbances, masterfully played by the great Anthony Hopkins.

It was said that Mr. Hopkins' portrayal of the mysterious American President was ''miraculous'; that, I think, is still an understatement. Hell, I even consider 'divine transformation' a slight complement. Though carrying the burden of being 'too British' in playing one of the representative American figures of the 70's, Mr. Hopkins played the part very convincingly, commanding the screen with his subtle smiles and desperate tantrums that even though his voice and features were nothing compared to that of the real Richard Nixon, he has able to embrace and embody his fragmented persona successfully.

The 1970's is the defining era of America, giving way for the birth of subversiveness and counterculture, hippies and pseudo-communists, paranoia and conspiracy, the Vietnam War and Fidel Castro. It also revealed the side of America few had ever anticipated: rebellious, restless, radical, but quietly revolutionary. It may look far-fetched but I can't help but see "Easy Rider" as a great companion piece.

Nixon may have left a trail of scandals and intrigues, but seeing the era's descriptions and seeing his, it's a perfect duo of revelation; yes, it has paved way for the wild side of American culture, but it has also undoubtedly molded it.

The United States of America. 'The Land of Promises'. Oh, how it continuously preached about the Great 'American' Dream, yet the Great 'American' Tragedy merely resides in its highest office playing on and on. We'll never know if Nixon really resigned in pride or in guilt. The Watergate. The Bay of Pigs. The ill-advised bombing of Cambodia. All incriminating devices for 'Nixon the politician'. but Stone, looking more humanistic and less political than ever, used them as mediums to expose the heart and soul of 'Nixon the man'. In the film, I distinctly remember what Nixon said about the Kent State massacre: "I'd like to offer my condolences to those families. But Nixon can't."

The grocer's son is indeed not as heartless as everyone thinks.


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