Wednesday, 23 April 2014

All the President's Men (1976) 70's Marathon 6#

Directed by: Alan J. Pakula
138 Minutes


During the early 1970’s, a huge scandal took place in the U.S, which climaxed with the resignation of President Richard Nixon, and had a real impact on American politics and the White House. This was known as the “Watergate Scandal”. In my opinion, this film requires contextual knowledge of what it is about, as it was released shortly after the scandal had been going on and exploded. The film requires you to know facts and the more you know- the richer your experience will be. Therefore, I did some research and read stuff up on Watergate, and I still found the great direction and solid performances from Hoffman and Redford to make this an interesting film.

The film looks at the work of two journalists, Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) who are investigating the ‘Watergate Scandal’. They jump from source to source and dig for research,

What makes the film special is its view of journalism. Many films that show journalism (even Citizen Kane) contain fast-talking and style to make things more interesting, glossing the work of journalists. Here, we see the boredom. The tediousness of research, the difficulty of sourcing, and the challenge of credibility; we see all of this. The film gives an honest look at what journalism really is and does not rely on fancy editing, which I like, but can be used to gloss things over. Therefore, the film maintains an integrity and authenticity on the entire scandal.

With that said, because I did not have very much knowledge on the scandal (and not being that knowledgeable on US politics either), it was hard keeping up with all the names, facts and details flying around. That is the one problem with the film is that it does rely on the viewer to be in on the issue, and was a film for its time essentially.

Nevertheless, I think the film still pulled its weight for viewers that do not have a great deal of information on ‘Watergate’, for I enjoyed the performances from one of my favourite actors Dustin Hoffman and the great Robert Redford. In Roger Ebert’s review, he writes the film could of gave focus on the background/private life of Woodward and Bernstein’s lives, but “the film sticks resolutely to its subject”. That was something I liked and did not like in the film. I liked this because it shows how the monotony of journalism consumes your life, and their lives becoming nothing but the researching and the reports- so there is no private life. However, it means it is hard to become attached to characters on an emotional level and while the films focus is really on the finding of facts, I like films to grab your heart along with your mind. Nevertheless, you can feel yourself cheering the reporters on in their efforts and hoping they succeed.

In terms of editing, I think the film has some good moments, such as zooming out from Woodward or Bernstein’s position as they research, showing the vastness of the city. There is one shot where they are looking at Library records, and shows us the length they have to go to in order to find information. There are also some great shots of the typewriter, showing the speed journalism can move at, and the ending un-ironically ends with the typing of a typewriter. It is clear that this is a film, that will be a richer experience according to how well you know your politics, and the Watergate scandal, but aside that this still stands as one of the great films of the 70’s for its truthful representation, great writing, and view upon the danger of political power that goes unchecked.




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