In Our Nixon, director Penny Lane takes a walk down memory lane, with mixed results.
DIRECTED BY PENNY LANE (USA, Special Presentations)
Saturday, April 27, 7 p.m.
The Royal Cinema (608 College Street)
Monday, April 29, 3 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)
Sunday, May 5, 1:30 p.m.
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor Street West)
Penny Lane—yes, that’s her name—takes on the challenge of making something fresh out of old Tricky Dick with Our Nixon. It’s no easy feat, given the fact that the Watergate president has already been immortalized in fiction and documentaries alike. Lane’s approach is to comb through Super-8 footage that remained in an FBI vault for years. It was shot by Nixon’s closest aides: Special Assistant Dwight Chapin, Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, and Domestic Affairs Advisor John Ehrlichman. The results are mixed.
Theoretically, as a treatise on the nature of remembrance and documentation itself, Our Nixon is interesting. In editing together footage matched with private calls from the presidential office, the home videos become dreamlike oddities (at one point two squirrels frolicking are matched with Nixon and Ehrlichman discussing homosexuality). What the point is, however, remains unclear. While A Film Unfinished demonstrated the recuperation and re-recording of a past through found-footage film, Our Nixon feels more voyeuristic. And Nixon’s guilt is never addressed. As a project, the film is ambitious, but in the end it doesn’t provide viewers with a better sense of its subject as either a historical figure or as a man.