R. Howard – FROST/NIXON
– Interesting and “classic” film without apparent slips.
JUST A FEW WORDS (IN THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT):
Frost/Nixon (by Ron Howard) is a film about a pivotal moment in the history of the United States of America: Frost’s interview with Richard Nixon after the watergate scandal and Nixon’s resignation before the Senate proceeded with his impeachment.
The encounter (practically a boxing match) between Frost and Nixon revolves around a founding moment of the American society to which Ron Howard manages to give an excellent degree of suspense through the almost classic treatment of the material available. The director manages to create a particularly functional amalgam between real archival materials, fake archival materials (the fake interviews with the “progatonists”) by playing with the aspect ratio. Through cinematography, he also tries to tickle the aesthetic idea that the viewer has of that era rather than mimicking it and he contaminates it with urgency on the storytelling level (the hand-held camera).
It is evident that before the shooting began there was a rather intense phase of research (as it happens in many Howard films based on true stories, for instance Apollo 13) and, again as a norm in the American director’s cinema, the lens is put on the characters and their behaviour. Whereas the interview itself is treated as a boxing match (with numerous terminological references to this sport), everything that surrounds the meeting/match is filled with details, minutiae and scenes that tell the backstage, the characters and the personal life of these characters (i.e. the Nixon / Frost call or even the dynamics of the shoes).
Despite an acting level that reaches excellent peaks (in particular in regards to Frank Langella’s performance), and even while recognizing the interesting layers of the film and the undoubted technical mastery of Ron Howard in telling a story, what doesn’t convince us of this film is the fact that we are not able to go beyond what seems to be an excessive degree of rigidity and adherence to the narrative norm that makes Frost/Nixon a film that is, although interesting, a little flat, structurally too predictable and devoid of that liveliness that often arises from the break rather than from conformism.
- The use of period details to make it more realistic.
- A certain type of meta-reflexivity (the aspect ratio and the relationship with the archival materials).
- Frank Langella’s performance.
- A bit of conceptual staticity: the narration makes it predictable (and we are not talking about the event itself whose outcome can be investigated even before seeing the film, but precisely of the structure of the film).
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