By David Hudson
Penny Lane will be at the Walter Reade in New York this evening as her found footage documentary Our Nixon closes this year’s edition of New Directors/New Films. I posted a few first impressions of Our Nixon from SXSW, and Susan Gerhard‘s had a lively conversation with Lane not only about her new film but also encompassing her earlier work.
“After Lincoln—and for mostly antithetical reasons—Richard M. Nixon may be the most persistently fascinating American president,” writes A.O. Scott in the New York Times. “He belongs as much to popular culture as to political history.” Our Nixon, the “ingenious” documentary “assembled by Penny Lane and Brian L. Frye, honors Nixon’s peculiar place in the American psyche, rendering the pathos and villainy of the era in a comic, intimate key.”
Anthony Kaufman at Sundance Now: “Put together from some 30 hours of Super-8 footage and shot by high-ranking Nixon aides H.R. (‘Bob’) Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and Dwight Chapin, the film at first presents a fun-loving group of young aspiring politicos, hanging out at the beach, touring China, and generally having a gay old time. A light-hearted introductory credit sequence featuring the upbeat 1979 song ‘They Don’t Know About Us’ highlights the contrast between the tricky ‘Dick’ Nixon that we know and the rosy view of their Nixon, a man with a reasoned plan for the future of the country—one that doesn’t involve homosexuals or All in the Family.”
“The footage is YouTube avant la lettre,” suggests Scott Foundas in the Voice: “often crudely filmed and banal, sometimes impressionistic (birds flitting about the trees seen from the Oval Office windows), and always a reminder of the curious things people feel compelled to document when they have a camera in their hands, forging a record of their brief time upon the earth.”
“Subtly but forcefully, Our Nixon interconnects footage to showcase how the Nixon administration was marked by the notion that, whether on TV or in the streets, radical vocal elements were bringing down a worthier, if privately held and increasingly anachronistic, vision of America,” writes Tomas Hachard in Slant.
Update, 4/1: “Don’t rush to Our Nixon if you’re looking for anything definitive or deep about that time,” writes David D’Arcy at Artinfo. “If Our Nixon isn’t enough, try the recent C-Span interviews with Timothy Naftali, who headed the Nixon Library, or access the interviews from Naftali’s Nixon Library oral history project, which Nixon’s admirers tried to scuttle in order to protect Nixon’s reputation. Fortunately for us, they failed at that coverup.”
We opened our coverage of the coverage of ND/NF 2013 on March 20 with a roundup on Alexandre Moors’s Blue Caprice.
3/22: Tobias Lindholm’s A Hijacking, Rachid Djaïdani’s Rengaine, and Lonesome Solo’s Burn It Up Djassa.
3/23: Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, Daniel Hoesl’s Soldate Jeannette, and Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel’s The Shine of Day.
3/25: Jazmín López’s Leones, O Muel’s Jiseul, and Sophie Letourneur’s Les Coquillettes.
3/26: Alex Pitstra’s Die Welt and Marcelo Lordello’s They’ll Come Back.
3/27: Matías Piñeiro’s Viola and Shannon Plumb’s Towheads.
3/28: Lyubov Arkus’s Anton’s Right Here, Libbie D. Cohn and J.P. Sniadecki’s People’s Park, and Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color.
3/29: Leonardo di Costanzo’s L’Intervallo, Eryk Rocha’s Jards, and Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell.