All The President's Men (1976) Alan J. Pakula

Nick :
I remember the Nixon resignation. It was big news in England. As I got older it was just one part of a realization for me that whatever happens in America will always be front page news all over the world.

Pakula has serious form in conspiracy pictures with his The Parallax View being one of the best ever.  All the President's Men was the first time Pakula did non-fiction. Watergate and Nixon's subsequent resignation was still so fresh in the hearts and minds of the American public, I think after all these years it is hard to realize what impact All the President's Men had when originally released.

The casting of such box-office heavyweights Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as the Washington Post journalists Woodward and Bernstein, who uncover corruption in the Republican Party that leads all the way to the President, of course merely broadened the appeal of the picture to mainstream audiences. Redford is A Typical, Hoffman is far more sympathetic than he usually is, although his character is far seedier than Redford's republican voting Woodward.

These two drive the film but are well supported by Jason Robards,  the always excellent Jack Warden and a very intense Hal Holbrook as Deep Throat, the secret insider informant who helps Woodward at key times in unraveling the story. Pakula ups the tension in the underground car park scenes between them, but always keeps it subtle.

Hollywood  has delved into this type of picture recently with David Fincher's Zodiac and State Of Play, but neither picture captures the buzz of the office quite like All the President's Men. We somehow feel a purity towards Woodward and Bernstein, this was a golden age of newspaper reporting we are watching. Our sense of nostalgia for seemingly worthier times gives their journalistic efforts an extra glow.

This is landmark political cinema dressed up as populist lamb and it's all the better for it.

I used to think All The President's Men is slow, dry and good to sleep through. Now, through some strange shift in me, I suggested we watch it. It is still interestingly passionless and level-headed, but Nick provides the passion from the sofa. Who knows how many times he has seen this one, and still he announces during the end credits: 'can you believe these two journalist uncovered it all...'

Yes, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman uncovered the rottenness in the White House. They were the hungry young reporters. But actually they appear to be floating through the film with the self-awareness of movie stars. I'm not complaining. This is one of those rare times where Hoffman's character is not looking to be liked for his handicap, I don't mind him. I definitely do not mind Redford with his blond hair. I always think of him as a red head, but he is blond here.

There is an extreme dryness in this movie. It's desert-like. As the conspiracy gets deeper and more serious involving the president and the intelligence agencies, you might expect some thrilling chases and murder attempts on the two journalists, but there is none of that. I take it as a sign of respect for the audience. I have (finally?) grown up to appreciate this slow dry brand of cinema.

I want to mention the interior of the Washington Post offices. It is a vast open white space supported by white round pillars here and there. The office tables and chairs are arranged in blocks of primary colors. Must be that hip Scandinavian influence of the 1970s. Also: typing is sexy.


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