Frost/Nixon: The Original Watergate Interview
Credits: Directed by Jen Winther
Details: (G), 85 mins, United States, English
Synopsis: Sir David Frost’s legendary interview with former U.S. President Richard M. Nixon remains the greatest political interview ever recorded (image from the motion picture Frost/Nixon). Watched by nearly 50 million viewers in the US when originally broadcast in May of 1977, here is the entire 80-minute interview focusing solely on Watergate – it would be the first and last time Nixon publicly confronted the issue. A compelling unveiling of one of the most infamous political scandals of our time, see Nixon on the verge of tears while trying to justify the burglaries and hush money that shook a nation. Nixon agreed to appear with no preparation or screening of questions - to be delivered by a supposed journalistic lightweight – but is cajoled into confessing all to the American people.
The TV moment that provided the catharsis the American judicial system couldn\'t.
Despite the inherent simplicity of the one-on-one format, the perfect ‘interview’ is an all-too-rare occurrence. The best interviews peel back the layers of the subject via a line of questioning that catches them off-guard. The moments when, in front of an audience of millions, an interviewee realises nothing but the truth will do, make for memorable media moments: “Please explain?”, “Tough titties!”, “Put your manners back in!”, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman...”, “I’ll try to find some and I’ll bring them to ya.”
But those examples lasted mere seconds. In May 1977, British broadcaster David Frost provided a line of questioning that spoke for a generation of Americans when he was granted the first interview with recently-impeached president Richard M. Nixon. It was 80 minutes of relentless, fearless probing and gave 50 million television viewers and ultimately the entire nation exactly what American democracy and its judicial system had failed to – a squirming, contrite, ashamed man, admitting his role in a crime that brought the most powerful political office in the world to its knees.
It is considered the greatest television interview of all time and rightly so. And the personalities and processes behind its construction have been wonderfully retold in director Ron Howards Oscar-nominated Frost/Nixon. But the perfect drama that unfolds before us is the real draw: the intense close-ups of Nixon when he realises that Frost, an ex-standup comic known for a light-hearted chat show, was ready for a fight; the precise use of key contributor quotes, congressional library records and federal investigator’s information; and, ultimately, the moment when David Frost asks Richard Nixon to admit openly the role he played in the Watergate crimes. Like the vanquished gladiatorial foe, Nixon throws himself at the mercy of the victor: “What words would you have me express?”
Revisiting a 32 year-old interview may not seem like the best way to spend your free time, but ‘The Original Watergate Interview’ is more than a time-capsule history lesson. The sparring is as riveting as a title fight, the pain evident with each stinging probe. It is a clash of personalities, agendas and intellects; a misguided nobleman’s fall from grace at a time when his country was struggling to find faith in its elected leaders.
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