Not as devastating as some would suggest but still an engaging and careful discussion where nobody totally gets what they want but Frost gets closest
Recently I was fortunate enough to see a screening of Ron Howard's version of the Frost/Nixon play and, as much as I enjoyed it, it reminded me that I had never actually seen the interviews myself. They were, of course, in the part of my brain that houses collective wisdom so I knew that they were supposed to be shocking and be the interviews where Frost pushed Nixon all the way and got revelations out of him that Nixon never got close to saying again. Like I say this was the collective wisdom of these interviews and so I decided to watch the PBS broadcast for myself which is available on a DVD with an exclusive interview with Frost at the end of the main programme.
The DVD could have done with a little more framing up front because the introduction to the original interview is a little sparse naturally since the target audience needed no background. Born after these events and into a different country, I could have done with a little recap since most of my knowledge of these events come via films rather than works of straight journalism. Having said that, the films held me to some degree as they gave me at least a basic base of knowledge to work with, but those looking for this film to help them understand the context would be really advised to do some reading or the events and the times before they jump in here. It is important to understand context because otherwise the interviews seem very dry. There are no massive revelations, no fireworks that history has generally given the impression that there were there are not these moments. Rather what the film is, is a series of carefully worded questions that dance Nixon one direction while he tries to avoid being moved in any one direction this was well shown in Howard's film but it comes through here. This battle of wills is not electric (as some suggest) but it is fascinating because it does feel like a discussion and it stands out from the stage-managed interviews that Bush is currently doing on some of the networks.
However, please don't get me wrong here because in a way the modern interviews do have a similar approach Bush and Blair get pushed to answer and perhaps apologise but they are just better prepared for it. To a certain extent it does feel like Nixon was expecting a softer touch because he does allow the dance to take him at times, even if he never totally loses it or says something without heavy caveatting. There is, looking back, a rather unfortunate edge to the film that it does feel like a redemption for him in some ways and I'm not sure it is one he totally deserves, so yes he does get close to apology and conceding certain things but he does come out of it looking better than he did going in.
The interview with Frost at the end of the film is quite useful and throws up the type of background that Howard's film gives you as well as the type of anecdotes that Frost has been pushing on the talk shows recently it makes it interesting and is a useful addition to the piece. Overall though you will be here for the interview proper and that is engaging. It is never as amazing a confrontation as the general view of the films would suggest but it is still worth seeing as a piece of history, although my advice would be to make sure you know about Watergate and the events leading to Nixon's resignation BEFORE you come to these interviews if you wish to get the real good of them.
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