Our Nixon (NR)

Documentary 84 August 30, 2013
By Stephanie Zacharek
More an entertaining curio than a revealing document, Penny Lane's Our Nixon repurposes footage that three White House newbies-- Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, Chief Domestic Adviser John Ehrlichman, and Deputy Assistant Dwight Chapin-- caught on Super 8 home movie cameras. Their reels were seized by the FBI as part of the Watergate investigation and then stored away, forgotten for nearly 40 years. Our Nixon collects some of the choicest bits, integrating images of long-ago White House Easter egg hunts and lunar landing footage with little-heard excerpts from the White House tapes that ultimately brought down Nixon and his cronies. Some of it is mildly historically relevant: There are a few shots of Haldeman wearing a furry hat and stubby suede gloves, standing in front of China's Great Wall in 1972, turning his own camera on whatever camera is turned on him. There's footage of Nixon at daughter Tricia's wedding, wearing a proud-papa tux and looking as dapper as a guy like that possibly could. The images have the grainy, vaguely faded look you'd expect. Sometimes they seem snoozily familiar; other times, they resemble strange missives beamed from another planet where some residents hover above all other workaday beings, puffed up with their own status. What's more intriguing is the way Our Nixon chronicles the president's growing paranoia, though that's mostly evident in voice clips from the White House tapes. We hear Nixon grousing to Haldeman and Ehrlichman about some show he watched on TV, where a nice, average, working guy is made to look ridiculous by his hippie son-in-law. (He was talking about All in the Family.)
Penny Lane Cinedigm

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