Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Nixon Frost

Last night I saw Nixon Frost, the play about the famous interviews, starring Frank Langella as the Trickster (updating his performance as Dracula?). Most enjoyable; Nixon is the gift that just keeps giving, and I feel sorry for those too young to have experienced him. The current parallels are of course unavoidable, e.g., the scandals and the view of Presidential power, but one can't stop thinking about how vile, stupid, uncomplicated, uninteresting, and unworthy current pretenders to the Nixon throne are compared to the man himself. Nixon had a lot in him, and some of it (like some of his presidency) was actually quite good. The rest may have been bad but was fascinating. None of this is true today, when we have venomous little scorpions instead of Macbeth.

Despite the innate appeal, I thought the playwright's recent movie, The Queen was in some ways more illuminating. Nixon is of course one of the all-time great real world characters, and has been taken in all sorts of directions involving varying degrees of poetic license. Here it was a bit linear, and the payoff was the famous moment in the Frost-Nixon interview on Watergate where he breaks down a bit into an on-camera catharsis, which the play suggests he at least half-wanted to do. This verged on being a bit too much of a typical final-scene chew-the-scenery Big Moment, although Langella did it well and I gather it actually happened. (I saw the interviews back when, but would have to see the big scene again to evaluate whether or not the play over-milked Nixon's emotional level here.)

Not to sound too harsh, though, and highly recommended, at a minimum to all Nixon fans.

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