Monday, October 29, 2007

No. 14 - All The President's Men

Watching All The President's Men recently, I was struck by a number of things. For one, Woodward and Bernstein must gather information the old-fashioned way in the pre-digital era. The two intrepid reporters memorably flip through all the records of books borrowed from the Library of Congress. We also see Woodward thumbing through stacks of telephone directories from every city in the U.S. And then there are phone calls to make (on rotary dial phones) and doors to knock on.

I was also struck by the secretive nature of the Nixon White House. I was also reminded that some of Bush's top people, such as Cheney and Rumsfeld, got their start with Nixon. And these men learned a valuable lesson from Watergate -- be careful about talking to reporters, especially Bob Woodward. The thought occurred to me -- could something like Watergate happen again?

All The President's Men captures the exhausting daily routine of investigative journalism -- wearing out shoe leather, pursuing many dead-end leads, burning the midnight lamp in an apartment with stacks of newspaper spilling all over the floor. It's a seemingly thankless task, an exercise in futility in many cases -- except that in this case, a U.S. President was brought down.

The film expertly dramatizes how a seemingly unimportant burglary case led to a wider scandal. The plot is advanced in the build-up of quotidian details. There are no speeches about politics, there is no melodrama, no love interests for Woodward or Bernstein. The focus here is on the work.

A less confident filmmaker than Alan J. Pakula might have added a celebratory scene with Woodward and Bernstein having a drink and saying, "We did, man!" These guys are so busy they don't have time to celebrate. At the very end of the film, when the story starts to break open, Woodward and Bernstein are busy, typing away.

1 comment:

PackardFilm Ltd said...

another groundbreaking masterpiece...I would add "Network" to your list!
Soon these films will be banned and erased from our memories