strange_complex: (Tonino reading)
2009 was my third year of reviewing all of the (non-work-related) books I read and films I watched here in my journal, and my second year of also doing the same for Classic episodes of Doctor Who. My overviews of 2007 and 2008 are at the links, and the same for 2009 follows below.

Books )

Films )

Doctor Who )

Other telefantasy )

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strange_complex: (ITV digital Monkey popcorn)
I saw this on Wednesday evening at the Cottage Road Cinema with [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan, [livejournal.com profile] planet_andy and [livejournal.com profile] big_daz. Classic film nights are a regular feature at the Cottage Road Cinema, and it's not just the film itself you get to see, but a Pathé news reel and some period adverts as well. It was ace! We saw news items about a new cable-car being opened in Wales, and another about Russian plans to import British cattle for breeding, the not-terribly-subtle subtext of both being effectively "Three cheers for good old Blighty, and down with everyone else!" Then we saw adverts for local fabric shops, record emporia and restaurants, all conveniently located in Caernarfon in the early 1960s. Finally - and best of all - we were wished a very Happy Christmas and a Gay 1964 - in tinsel. Whereupon I had no option but to punch the air in post-ironic joy.

Also, there was a film! I've seen isolated chunks of it before, as you do when channel-hopping, so knew I was in for a lavish technicolor Saint Judy-fest (as [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan quite rightly calls her) - and in that I was not disappointed! I was kind of assuming the film would turn out to have some kind of a plot when seen all in one go, but honestly the efforts in that direction were a bit half-hearted, really. It's more like a series of set-pieces, and quite a few turns of events never really get explained or followed up properly. Not that that matters, because the set-pieces are ace. I think I possibly liked Saint Judy beating up the insipid, generic boy next door best of all... though it was a bit more disappointing when she later agreed to marry him. :-( Also, there were some great lines - especially from the little kid, Tootie. Like, "I have to have two kinds of ice cream. I'm recuperating." So, really, who cares about the plot.

Finally, as the credits rolled, the Cottage Road Cinema put the last touch to the period-appropriate atmosphere by playing 'God Save the Queen', and projecting a youthful picture of Her Madge onto the screen. And because it was the kind of place where everyone was really getting into the Classic spirit of the thing and doing the same, [livejournal.com profile] big_daz and I stood up. It made for a perfect end to the evening - and I can't wait for the next one.

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strange_complex: (Sebastian boozes)
Seen at the Cottage Road cinema with [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan

I must admit that I went to see this with a kind of train-wreck mentality. From what I'd seen on trailers and posters, it looked destined to be pretty awful - a CGI-heavy Gothic horror fest with little subtlety and no resemblance to the book beyond the title. I was braced for something which was to Wilde's Dorian Gray as the film Van Helsing was to Stoker's Dracula. But I went all the same, because somehow I just couldn't resist seeing for myself how bad it was going to be.

And in that I was sorely disappointed. It isn't perfect by any means - [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan and I agreed on the way home that there were points at which they had gone slightly overboard with the CGI, especially in the final scenes. But it was a lot better than I had been expecting. It had subtlety and structure and clever thematic allusions, and succeeded in bringing out the essential character of Wilde's book while at the same time bringing its own contributions to the table. In short, I think it has been mis-marketed, and actually if you like Wilde's novel and like dark and grungy modern visions of Victorian depravity (think Sweeney Todd), you will probably like this.

OK, the rest is going to be spoilerific )

There's a lot there, then - more, in fact, than I'd intended to write when I sat down to do this review! It's just a pity that Parker occasionally let himself get just a little carried away with the CGI effects - particularly when 95% of the way the always-tricky issue of whether or how to show the picture itself was actually handled quite cleverly and subtly, and it was only that rogue 5% that over-egged the pudding. With only a very little editing to trim out the worst excesses, it would be a really brilliant film - and as it is, I'm glad I saw it.

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strange_complex: (Leptis Magna theatre)
I came across this film c. 12 years ago, while channel-hopping on what was quite probably a Bank Holiday weekend. I'd missed the first twenty or thirty minutes, but got hooked into the perilous-trek-across-the-Sahara storyline, and the tensions between the three main characters. Although the desert setting is physically expansive, its extreme character and the isolation of the three people trekking across it make it essentially an example of the cabin-fever genre - my liking for which I have documented previously.

And as a cabin fever story, it's decent enough )

But its real appeal is the location footage )

Roman cities in North Africa )

It's great to be able to see this film again after so long, and three cheers for this modern world of IMDb and Lovefilm, which allowed me to identify and then watch it without having initially remembered what it was even called. I do think, though, that it is about time I made more of an effort to see at least some of the North African cities in real life rather than just on film. I've wanted to ever since my final year at Bristol, and now at last I seem to be living in a time when there are a) companies like this who will take people there and b) enough pounds in my bank account to pay them. It'll take some careful research to make sure I'm getting a decent deal - but I can't think of anywhere else I would rather go on holiday.

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strange_complex: (Sebastian boozes)
Watched on DVD from Lovefilm.

This is my second Visconti film in the last month, and like Il Gattopardo it is again very slow-paced. The technicolor look of the earlier film has largely been left behind in favour of a more neutral colour palette, which is partly imposed by the stones of the Venetian setting anyway, but also suits the sombre, washed-up mood of the main character. But there are also flashes of bright colours - vases of flowers, bowls of fruits, hats, swimming-costumes and the red hair of the street musician. Since the main theme of the film is the search for beauty, and the near-impossibility of identifying it or attaining it, I think these are mainly intended to represent a) transience (especially the flowers and fruit) and b) the brashness which often masquerades as beauty.

The direction is again theatrical, and the landscape serves as a backdrop to the characters rather than playing a role of its own. Most of Venice is glimpsed only over Gustav von Aschenbach's shoulders as he moves around the city, and even St. Mark's square appears only in fragments viewed between columns in the surrounding portico. There is also very little incidental music. It is used only occasionally at moments of significant development, and the majority of the music in the film is instead diegetic (i.e. in-story music such as a character playing the piano). On top of this, the dialogue is quite limited - Aschenbach simply has few people to speak to in Venice, so that a lot of the film shows him moving around on his own, watching the people around him but not interacting with them. Together with the absence of music and wide shots, it makes for a very desolate atmosphere, emphasising Aschenbach's isolation and the emptiness of his life.

And this is all very clever and effective, I'm sure. But I found it hard to really like the film, because I just found Gustav von Aschenbach so repulsive. I don't think we are meant to like him - he is explicitly shown as narrow-minded, staid and intolerant. But I presume we are meant to feel some sympathy for him, being rejected by audiences back home in Munich and discovering in Venice that he can see what real artistry consists of but will never be able to reach or connect with it. Perhaps we are supposed to recognise the universal tragedy of the human condition in his journey through the film. But instead, when he sat there on the lido having his final heart-attack, his grotesque death-mask make-up dripping down his face while he reached out hopelessly for the distant figure of Tadzio paddling in the water, I was sitting there thinking "Oh, for heaven's sake get on and die already, and leave the pretty Polish boy alone!"

Maybe that is partly how we are supposed to feel, and then be horrified by our own reactions. But maybe I didn't care.

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strange_complex: (Snape by JKR)
Seen with [livejournal.com profile] edling in Oxford.

This film definitely isn't the jewel of the cinematic Harry Potter franchise. On the whole, I didn't mind about the omissions or additions by comparison with the book. The Death Eater attacks on the Millennium bridge and the Weasley's home were a bit unexciting, but they were at least a reasonably efficient way of signalling Voldemort's growing strength, and thus the extent of the threat which he now represents. And I actively liked the scene with Harry and the waitress in the railway cafe. It felt to me like a Dido and Aeneas moment - Harry is tempted to drop it all for an ordinary Muggle woman, but is called back to his appointed destiny by Dumbledore appearing in front of a poster which emphasises the word 'divine'.

What really put me off, though, was the peculiar passionlessness of it all. The colour palette is similar to that used by Alfonso Cuarón in The Prisoner of Azkaban - dark and grainy and subdued. But this isn't enough to create an ominous atmosphere of fear and suspense when so many of the actors appeared to be just saying their lines rather than putting any expression or emotion into them. This struck me particularly with Michael Gambon's Dumbledore - and since I know from previous films that he is capable of playing this role to much greater effect, I can only assume it stemmed somehow from David Yates' direction. Even Alan Rickman managed to seem as though he were caricaturing his own portrayal of Snape - though I could still have done with more of him, all the same.

On the other hand, Jim Broadbent was absolutely brilliant as Slughorn - very much as I imagined him from the book, and playing the balance between his cosy pompousness and his regret and self-loathing over his earlier relationship with Tom Riddle very nicely. And Tom Felton has really come into his own as Draco Malfoy! I used to be a bit unconvinced by the casting decision there, since he sometimes came across as merely brattish rather than genuinely menacing in the earlier films. But I now applaud the foresight of whoever originally cast him. He's doing unpleasant and manipulative very nicely now, and also combining it very effectively with troubled and uncertain.

For all that, though, the ending felt pretty flat to me. Dumbledore's death and Draco and Snape's escape should carry enormous emotional impact - but they just didn't. And to reveal in a throwaway line with no background explanation that Snape is the Half-Blood Prince, when that moment has such potential for highlighting the parallels between Harry and Snape, again felt like serving up an empty shell of a scene with all the stuffing pulled out of it.

Anyway, it passed an evening, I didn't storm out demanding my money back, and I will probably still buy the DVD just so that I've got them all. But this film is nothing like the calibre of The Prisoner of Azkaban, and is only really worth seeing if you're already invested in the fandom.

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strange_complex: (Claudia Cardinale fan)
IMDb page here. Watched on DVD from Lovefilm.

This is a long, slow epic of a film; large and grandiose, but with a great deal of small detail and personal intimacy, too.

I watched it partly because one of the main characters is played by the delectable Claudia Cardinale. Indeed, many moons ago I made this icon of her character holding a fan to use when registering my appreciation of LJ posts which I sincerely liked but did not have anything specific to say about in a comment. (It fulfils, of course, the same role now served by the 'Like' button on Facebook - and oh I do wish they would get on and implement something similar for LJ!). But I also watched it because it deals with one of my favourite periods of Italian history, the Risorgimento, here seen specifically from the point of view of a noble Sicilian family.

The head of that family, Don Fabrizio - the 'leopard' of the title, somewhat surprisingly but very powerfully played by Burt Lancaster - takes a sanguine view of matters. He speaks a great deal about the antiquity of Sicily, very much focussing on the longue durée, and fundamentally believes that the unification of Italy will make little difference to the everyday experiences of the Sicilian people. But at the same time a clear contrast is drawn between the old ways which he represents and the new ways of his nephew Tancredi - an energetic and passionate young man, who fights actively for the revolution and willingly throws himself into the politics of the new regime. By the end of the film, Tancredi is deeply in love with Angelica (Claudia Cardinale's character), who is vital and spirited but distinctly ignoble. There is a frisson of attraction between Angelica and Don Fabrizio, too - but ultimately it is something which cannot be pursued. While she and Tancredi swirl ardently together at the ball which forms the climax of the film, Don Fabrizio, now tired and somewhat dejected, walks out into the streets of the small town beyond, finally disappearing from sight altogether into a dark archway. He has done his bit - but the future belongs to Tancredi and Angelica.

The cinematography and direction of the film are very typical of the 1960s. The colour palette revolves around Glorious Technicolor, while the direction is very much theatrical. This has its own charms, but I felt that the landscape of Sicily perhaps wasn't shown off to its best advantage as a result. A modern director would have given us lots of aerial shots of the landscape, capturing the rolling shapes of the hills and coastlines by flying over the scenery. Visconti, though, treats the landscape above all as a backdrop, always static behind scenes of human action. Perhaps that is what he wanted to capture - a sense of Sicily as still and unchanging while its people act out their small-scale human dramas. But I felt that something of its potential majesty was lost as a result.

I wouldn't recommend this film to everyone - it is slow-paced, and assumes a pre-existing interest in the circumstances of the characters rather than seeking to establish one. But if you happen to like 19th-century Italy, 1960s cinematography or indeed Claudia Cardinale, Burt Lancaster or Alain Delon (who plays Tancredi), it is definitely a fine example of its kind.

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strange_complex: (La Dolce Vita Trevi)
Seen at the weekend on DVD. I've watched quite a few Fellini films before, but not since I've got into the habit of recording everything systematically here. So, for my own reference, the other ones I've seen are La Dolce Vita (1960), Fellini - Satyricon (1969) and Roma (1972) - amongst which the latter is probably my favourite.

This one is very much in the now-familiar vein. The story is impressionistic and open-ended, full of dream sequences, fantasies and childhood flashbacks, and it is of course also strongly autobiographical - the main character, played by Marcello Mastroianni, is a director trying to plan his latest film while grappling with his own personal lack of direction. The line between art and life was clearly very blurry for Fellini - which is part of why his films are so good, of course. The cinematography is also very beautiful, with lots of shots from interesting angles, compositions which speak volumes about the emotional space the characters are inhabiting and so forth. Also, it does not hurt to have Claudia Cardinale about the place, looking all doe-eyed and beautiful.

Perhaps most striking, though, was the in-story meta-commentary. Throughout the film, Mastroianni converses with a cinema critic: ostensibly about the film his character is planning, but in fact it is clear from the content of their conversations that they are actually discussing the film we are watching. Arguably this is a bit self-indulgent, since it allows Fellini to pre-empt the real critics before they can speak by showing that he is quite aware of their narrow-minded little views, thank you, knows what he's doing and has an answer for them. But it's also bold and self-assured, and helps to guide the viewer through what is otherwise quite a fragmented narrative, so on balance I rather liked it.

Overall, not quite on the same level as Roma for me, but a very accomplished piece of pure Fellini all the same.

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strange_complex: (Asterix Romans)
Watched this evening on Channel 4, after recent posts by [livejournal.com profile] dakegra and [livejournal.com profile] ashavah reminded me that I'd always been mildly intrigued by the character of the Roman soldier (Octavius, played by Steve Coogan) in the first one.

He's not the biggest character in the film (literally - he is a 3" tall figurine), but he does get a decent amount of screen-time, and is really very cute. He likes to FIGHT and be NOBLE and GLORIOUS. What really interested me, though, was the explicit links drawn between him and the Cowboy character, Jedediah (Owen Wilson). They start out trying to colonise each other's territory, but Ben Stiller's character eventually convinces them that, apart from having been born 2000 years apart, they are basically just the same, and they end up becoming firm friends.

And I love this, because there is a long-standing tradition of viewing the European settlement of America as a modern equivalent of Roman colonisation - this is why, for example, William Penn planned Philadelphia on the same basic model as a typical Roman colony. On that analogy, the Wild West is a lot like the frontier zones where the legions were based (though less organised, obviously), so the link the film is drawing is firmly rooted in established traditions of Classical receptions. It's nice to know that's still a strong enough idea to crop up in a kids' comedy run-around. Even if it is obviously completely morally reprehensible to glorify imperialist expansion of any kind, of course...

Other than that, it was basically light-hearted brain-candy, with NEANDERTHALS and WOOLLY MAMMOTHS and DICK VAN DYKE. But I did think it had very stylish opening credits, and a lovely muted golden autumnal colour-palette. The only down-side was Ricky Gervais' character, who was just a straight-forward rip-off of his role from The Office, and really didn't work in the context of the rest of the characters at all.

I don't think I'll bother paying actual money to see the sequel in the cinema, but I'm glad I bothered to catch this one on TV.

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strange_complex: (Miss Pettigrew)
After re-watching the film yesterday afternoon, I followed up this morning with the DVD extras. That's not normally something I would expect to want to blog about - but it turns out there were three deleted scenes included on the DVD that really would have made a massive difference to the film if they'd been left in. So now I feel the need to write about how silly I think it is that they were cut, and how much clearer and stronger the film would have been if they'd been retained.

The first two scenes both come from the beginning of the film, when Miss Pettigrew is wandering the streets of London at night between being dismissed from Mrs. Brummegan's house and reporting to Miss Holt's agency in the morning.

Obviously they are spoilery, not only for the deleted scenes themselves but also for the rest of the film which they relate to )

The third comes later on in the morning, when Nick is on his way up to the apartment, and Miss LaFosse is in the lift with Phil, frantically trying to stop either of them from seeing one another.

And again with the spoilers )

So why all that had to go is beyond me. Between them, those three scenes add up to about another 10 minutes of footage between them, while the film as released was only 88 minutes long - hardly an epic by today's standards. Possibly they were cut for the sake of the overall pacing, since all three come quite early on in the film, and maybe it was felt that the action needed to move forward more quickly. But is that really so important that it is worth leaving two major loose threads hanging, weakening the characterisation of Miss Pettigrew and causing actual confusion in the cinema audience for the sake of it? Obviously I still enjoyed the film as it was released, even without these extra scenes. But now that I know about them, I find it absolutely criminal that it could have been treated so badly by its editors. If anyone can explain the thinking behind this sort of decision to me, I am all ears!

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strange_complex: (Miss Pettigrew)
Watched this afternoon, all curled up on the sofa as part of my weekend of indulgence. I've seen it before, and indeed reviewed it before, but that doesn't mean I don't have new stuff to say about it, especially because I've also read the book since.

It seemed shorter than I remembered, but I suppose that's natural enough when you've seen a film before, and therefore know where you are in the story and how much remains at any given point. Now that I've read the book, I'm also less keen than I was before on the way the character of Edythe Dubarry is depicted in the film. In the book, she is a strong and self-possessed business-woman, who is nothing but supportive of both Miss LaFosse and Miss Pettigrew. But in the film she has been made into Miss Pettigrew's rival - the one who knows her secret, uses this as a hold over her, and has cynically entrapped lovely, honest, Ciarán Hinds-Joe purely for the sake of his professional status. It all makes her both more bitchy and more weedy than she is in the book - and definitely a lot less feminist.

Apart from that, though, I still absolutely love the film - both in its own right and as an adaptation of the book. I especially liked the way it is made so much clearer in the film how similar Delysia LaFosse's situation really is to Miss Pettigrew's, beneath all the glitz and glamour. This is touched on in the book, when we hear that her real name is Sarah Grubb, but the film makes it much more explicit by extending the name-confession scene to reveal that she also barely has any possessions that are really her own, and could be out on the streets herself in the blink of an eye. There's also a lot of good mileage got out of the impending outbreak of the Second World War, which adds a dark undertone to the otherwise-glamorous proceedings; and a running theme about Miss Pettigrew getting nothing to eat and no sleep for almost 48 hours over the course of the film, which has humour value and also helps to underline the severity of her position.

And of course, the film has all the benefits of sumptuous sets, costumes and cinematography, all of which are used extremely intelligently. Since I now own the DVD, I was able to cap a couple of my favourite scenes for your delectation )

ETA: further thoughts on the deleted scenes included on the DVD release now posted here.

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strange_complex: (Claudius god)
Seen this evening with [livejournal.com profile] big_daz at the Light.

This is definitely a very patriotic and royalist film, which is no surprise given that one of its producers was Sarah Ferguson. That's not necessarily a criticism, and it's certainly entirely in keeping with the position Queen Victoria already occupies in the nation psyche. But I'm just saying that anyone who wants to see a measured critique of either Victoria specifically or the institution of the monarchy more generally should probably give this film a miss.

Personally, I didn't mind it in the least. Partly, this is because I am a royalist anyway,1 and partly it's because, since Queen Victoria was a woman, the patriotic fervour also had a distinctly feminist slant. There was a lot of emphasis on her casting off the influences of the various power-hungry men who were seeking to control her, and establishing a style of rulership of her own which was ultimately better for the nation. But while at one level this could be read as "See, you greedy and corrupt politicians try to sully the golden purity of our wondrous monarchy, but its true nobility prevails!", a secondary reading more along the lines of "Take that, you patriarchal fools!" put in a very healthy appearance.

Furthermore, the score centred throughout around perhaps the most patriotic and royalist piece of music ever written: Handel's Zadok the Priest. Which I love, and which we sang in the Sacred Wing in December 2007, and which really made the passion rise and kept making me want to yell out "GOD SAVE THE KING! LONG LIVE THE KING!" (or queen, even) at the appropriate moments. Add to that the beautiful camerawork, with lots of very good use of imbalanced shots in particular (i.e. the main focus of the shot is off to the left or right of the screen, not in the centre - I don't know if there's a better technical term for that), and a script which was sparing and naturalistic, conveying a great sense of the volumes left unspoken (as you would expect from Julian Fellowes, who was also responsible for Gosford Park), and you're in business, really.

So it's not one for those seeking an intellectual challenge or rigorous debate, but if you're up for a bit of QWEEN VICTORRIA IS TEH ACES, it makes for a good night out. And if at least one member of the cast doesn't feature in the next Honours List, I will eat my hat.


1. Essentially because I think that the monarchy offers a valuable cultural focus which helps to bind us together as a community, and that an important part of the nature of that focus is a vivid and tangible link with our past - which, as a historian, I obviously consider to be a particularly important component of our cultural identity.

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strange_complex: (Christ Church Mercury)
[livejournal.com profile] rosamicula loves this film so much that when she came to stay with me for [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan's hen weekend, she bought two copies of the Sunday Telegraph, each of which came with a free copy of the DVD, so that she could be absolutely sure that she got at least one working copy. Since, as it turned out, both of them were fully functional, she gave one to me.

And I can see both why she loves it, and why she was so sure that I would too. With its hazy, perpetual summertime, resonant with weeping willows, cricket bats, embroidered waistcoats and beautiful young men, it's a close cousin to Brideshead Revisited and Maurice. But like both of those, the summer light is really there to throw the darker side of upper-class English life in the 1930s into sharp contrast, in a way that also reminded me strongly of If.... Making it, of course, all the more beautiful for its insubstantial fleeting fragility.

The cinematography is gorgeous, the dialogue rich and complex without becoming mannered, and the acting superb throughout. But I did find myself a bit unconvinced about the 'bookends' of the film, in which we see the main character, Guy Bennett (who was based on the Cambridge spy, Guy Burgess) looking back at his Eton school-days from exile in 1980s communist Russia. Not only did Rupert Everett make a deeply unconvincing 70-year-old, but the link between his school-day experiences and his later espionage was only explored in the most simplistic of terms, so that the relationship between the central story of the film and its framing scenes felt tenuous at best.

Still, if you basically ignore those bits, it is a beautiful film, and it didn't hurt that it included a great deal of location footage of Oxford, too - even if it was masquerading rather confusingly as Eton, causing me to keep on thinking mistakenly that the characters had suddenly left school after all and gone on to University instead.

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strange_complex: (Cities Esteban butterfly)
I know the entire world saw this film and loved it nearly a decade ago, but I somehow never got round to it, so I'm just catching up.

I may not have chosen the best time, actually. I think the circumstances of my life at the moment mean I'm a bit too tired and cynical to really engage with its life-affirming message. Ironically for a film about escapism, it wasn't escapist enough for my present needs.

Still, I did enjoy it as a finely-crafted work of art. All of the performances are excellent, the camera-work was playfully innovative and interesting without being distracting, and I loved the muted colour palette which managed to make modern-day Paris look as though it had slipped backwards into the golden haze of the '50s and '60s. It made me laugh sometimes, too, especially when we saw the results of the naughty tricks which Amélie played on M. Collignon (the green-grocer), so I'm not completely beyond hope.

It did give me a bit of a shock language-wise, though. I've been watching TV5 Monde at home quite a lot lately, and it had lulled me into a false sense of security about my French language competence, since I can watch it quite happily with no need of subtitles and follow pretty much everything that's going on. But TV5 Monde consists mainly of news programmes and documentaries, in which clear factual information is explained slowly and distinctly in the crispest of accents by presenters who are aiming quite consciously at a global audience, including non-native French speakers. Amélie, on the other hand, is full of people speaking in idiomatic and sometimes slangy everyday French at an enormously rapid pace. I didn't half need the subtitles, I can tell you.

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strange_complex: (C J Cregg)
Seen last night at the Cottage Road cinema with [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan and [livejournal.com profile] planet_andy.

I didn't expect to be so absolutely gripped by this, but it really was enthralling. At micro level, it focusses entirely on the preparations for and recording of the series of interviews which Nixon gave to David Frost in 1977, but in the process it casts a very searching light indeed over the nature of politics and the media and the relationship between them.

Martin (oops!) Michael Sheen and Frank Langella are absolutely brilliant as the nervous young Frost and the ageing and embittered Nixon respectively, managing to capture the mannerisms and speech patterns of their subjects beautifully without ever coming across as slavish impressionists. And I very much liked the device of having most of the major secondary characters appearing not only within the story itself, but also in 'talking head' guise, looking back on their experience of the interviews from a perspective in what appears to be something like the early '80s. It was a great way of allowing the interviews to be commented on from a position of hindsight at the same time as presenting the unfolding process as it occurred, which was important given that one of the main things the film wanted to do was emphasise the contrast between the eventual success of the project and the risk of total failure which had been run along the way.

That said, I think it would also be incautious to be too easily swayed by a film which demonstrates so clearly the persuasive and distorting power of the screen (small or large). It's fairly clearly mythologising both Frost and the interviews, and it presents Nixon's final confessions about Watergate as a crushing and unexpected defeat for him. But I find it hard to believe that so canny and manipulative a politician as Nixon would really have allowed himself to be pushed by Frost into saying anything he didn't entirely want to say anyway. And then again, we do in fact see Nixon's Chief of Staff looking back on the interviews a few years later on and saying that he felt they had been a success - so maybe the possibility that Nixon knew exactly what he was doing is allowed for as well.

Anyway, I very much enjoyed the close treatment of such a fascinating moment in the history of both television and politics. I'll be looking out to see how this one does at the Oscars.

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