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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

This Week at SUMO: Frost/Nixon and Barry Lyndon


Ultimately, Frost/Nixon really isn’t about Richard Nixon, or David Frost. It’s about the beast that is TV. Frost and Nixon’s personal investments in the interview are almost second to the view of the workings of production, advertisement, syndication and ratings. I liked this film – I think it’s a sort of an ode to American TV.

David Frost is a talk-show-host of a reporter, famous and dashing, but with little real credibility. Played by a smarmy-but-honest Michael Sheen, the British Frost wants to be US-famous. Nixon’s silence since his retirement is a golden opportunity; Frost gives Nixon a call and gets himself an interview with Nixon wanting a chance to get the American people to love him again. Frost gathers a crack team of researchers to work on questions while he wines and dines. After he’s screwed by tricky Dick in the first interview, Frost buckles down to attack Nixon right back.

There’s not too much real suspense since we know that the earth won’t move because of whatever happens in this interview. Still, we root for Frost just a little, and would like to see arrogant Nixon at least flummoxed during his long-winded, controlled answers. I suppose we feel a little bad for Nixon, too, although I was less involved with the characters than I was with how it all made it to broadcast.

Barry Lyndon

I don’t know what to make of Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. It’s a picaresque – based on Thackeray’s book – a la Candide, except much less funny, and certainly less interesting. Our naïve anti-hero, Redmond Barry is about as lovable as a plant, and just as boring to watch grow.

Redmond starts out fatherless in turn-of-the-eighteenth-century Ireland with no land to his name. He falls for his cousin Nora (she lets him search for a ribbon in her cleavage). Of course, Nora’s got to marry for money; Redmond challenges Nora’s suitor to a duel, shoots him, and flees the Irish countryside. On the way he is robbed, joins the army, flees the army, is caught by Prussians, enlisted to spy—just when you think things are going well for Redmond they go badly; but you won’t be invested enough to really care one way or another.

I’m not sure what Kubrick saw in this tale—it’s a slow mix of subtle (bland) satire and fictional biography. And it’s long—the first half being an hour and forty-five minutes long. I suppose there’s something here; the film has been quoted in numerous other films, Rushmore included.

The reason to watch this film is its perfectly amazing cinematography. Each scene looks like a painting straight out of the National Gallery, London. Kubrick used revolutionary film techniques to manipulate the light, color and texture of what we see on screen—it’s almost startling to see film looking this beautiful. The masterwork cinematography and the banal storyline make for quite a contrast, which is why I just don’t know what to make of it. I suppose the film is worth watching just for the scenery.

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