In the hot seat

They were the unlikeliest of adversaries,but their jousting,in the most famous TV encounters ever,made history....

Written by Shubhra Gupta | Published: September 5, 2009 12:30:12 am

They were the unlikeliest of adversaries,but their jousting,in the most famous TV encounters ever,made history. Richard Nixon,disgraced American president,licking his Watergate-inflicted wounds in a stunning Californian ocean-facing villa; and David Frost,British TV anchor,adrift amongst a sea of confusion and self-doubt,looking for moorings. On the surface,they were as different as two people could be. And yet,there were poignant parallels,

which start emerging as Frost/Nixon begins unspooling.

You can find the ‘real’ interviews on DVD as well,dourly conducted between the two men. But if you want a fascinating account of what happened before and after and during,Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon is for you. It’s as accurate as a mainstream feature can be (a phone call that Nixon makes to Frost just before the last interview was pure figment),and the two actors,Frank Langella (Nixon) and Michael Sheen (Frost),show us how to inhabit other peoples’ skins,and become them.

At the time Frost makes his pitch to Nixon’s handlers,he is having trouble with his career. As his attempts to sucker American network bosses into paying him for the interviews are nixed,he has to dig into his own cash reserves. The former president,who looks as if he could swallow a lightweight opponent like Frost alive,is jostling with his own demons. The film suggests that after all those months of intense pressure,post Watergate,where he resolutely kept up a front,he may have been in need of redemption,and a way out,just as much,in fact,as his interlocutor.

Sharp story-telling,wonderful characterisation,all served up in a film that educates and entertains. Bonus : excerpts from the ‘real’ interview.

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