ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN
US, 1976, 138 Minutes, Colour.
Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jason Robards, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook, Jane Alexander, Robert Walden.
Directed by Alan J. Pakula.
All The President's Men was one of the most popular films of 1976. It surprised most audiences by being very objective in its presentation of the controversies of the middle seventies in the United States. Writer William Goldman (winning an Oscar for his screenplay) and director Alan Pakula have ensured that Woodward and Bernstein's account of the uncovering of wide involvement (including White House personnel) in a Slush Fund for defamation of Democrats and of the Watergate cover-up is engrossing cinema.
We are made to move with the two reporters in their gradual uncovering of facts, sharing their curiosity, drive and ambition to succeed (including some pressurised methods lacking scruple). Acting is excellent, especially by Robert Redford (who also was the producer of the film) and Dustin Hoffman in the central roles and Jason Robards, Jack Warden and Jane Alexander in support that gives a strong flavour of authenticity. The tone is understandably fiercely anti-Nixon. The film is a very good example of serious filmmaking from America.
1. The impact of this film in the 1970's? The actual events, interpretation, the credibility?
2. How political a film? Against Nixon and the Republicans? Attitude towards America, open society, freedom of speech, the rights of the Press? How much insight into American politics, the politics of the 'Seventies, the personalities involved? How much insight into human power and its exercise? Its effect, absolute power tending to absolute corruption? The insight into people and their involvement in politics, corruption and power? The insight into the American Right, the American Left? Extremism? Power and intelligence, and the Nixon administration as not being intelligent? Honesty and dishonesty? Public and private lying?
3. Insight into the American Press, the role of the Press in general in reporting, surmising, exposing? The role of the Press and the pressman? The qualities of probing, motivations for pursuing stories? Ability to communicate stories? The inherent dangers of pressures, ambitions, the same dangers of power as the exposed politicians? Did the film take account of this, how?
4. The irony of the title, the reference to Humpty Dumpty? The ironies as regards President Nixon? The importance of the initial prologue as regards Nixon's arrival, the atmosphere and applause etc.? The Americanism and American feeling? The surface respectability and the corruption underneath? The contrast with the epilogue and the televised inauguration? Nixon swearing oaths? And the list of charges and the men accused, with their sentences? What had the film achieved?
5. The initial presentation of the burglary, its impact? The nature of the trial, the men involved, the presence of their lawyers? The beginning of the threads that would lead to exposure?
6. The presentation of the Washington Post? The role of the newspaper in the city, in America, rivalry with other papers, for example, those of New York? Sources of paper material? The reputation of the paper, especially with Ben Bradlee as editor? The film's re-creation of the offices, the personnel and the workings of a daily newspaper? The photography within the office, especially the use of tracking people? The presentation of the department heads, especially Harry Rosenfeld and Harry Simons? The role of these men and their influence? Bernstein and his ambitions? The assignment of Watergate to Woodward and his being woken up, his pursuing of the case, asking questions and taking notes?
7. The presentation of the two newspapermen at work? The importance of their notes, taking details of conversations and comparing them? The initial rivalry, Bernstein and his taking of Woodward's material? Woodward's attitude and allowing Bernstein to take it? Woodward's junior position on the paper? The film ' Is focussing on the personalities and style of the two men, especially in their work? Showing a little of Woodward at home, nothing of Bernstein? How sympathetic to audiences were the two men? A certain detachment for people to be interested in what they were doing?
8. The detailed characterization of Rosenfeld, Simons, Ben Bradlee? Their roles on the paper and their influence? Practical decisions, ambitions? Attitude towards politics? The details of Bradlee's office, the Kennedy emphasis? The presentation of staff meetings, the discussion of front pages and headlines? Priorities, decisions, ethics? The ethos of the paper? The various editors?
9. The emphasis in the film on the telephone and the typewriter? The details of the phone calls: for example, to the Congress Library, pursuing Howard Hunt, investigating Colson, the C.I.A.. the Miami connections as regards the Watergate criminals' funds, Dahlberg and tracking him down? Pursuing the Committee to Re-elect? How did the film create drama from these phone calls, the anxious interest of the reporters? The screenplay taking us with the reporters further into the unknown and creating suspense, interest and excitement?
10. Bernstein's visit to Miami, his being kept waiting, the personalities of the south? Bernstein's pushiness and finding out about Dahlberg? The discovery about the Committee to Re-elect? The way that they used their sources to get details of the members on the committee? The discovery about the papers, the role of John Mitchell and company? The growing awareness of deep political involvement?
11. The details of the interviews with the members of the Committee to Re-elect? The humour of the false Caroline Abbott? The detailed discussions with the bookkeeper, gradually tricking information out of her, getting her to confirm hunches? The ethics of this kind of interviewing? The personality of the bookkeeper, her unwillingness to talk, pressures. her knowledge? Loyalty towards Sloan, antagonism towards Mitchell?
12. The role of the F.B.I., the liaison with the F.B.I. man, confirming hunches, finally turning against them? Why?
13. Sloan as a good man and the issues of honesty revolving around him? The interviews with him. his wife's pregnancy etc.? A human slant to this political story?
14. The irony of showing the White House and the newspapers arriving there? The repercussions from the White House? e.g. the television interviews with Zeigler, the Attorney General etc.? The criticism of the Washington Post?
15. The risk that the writers took in writing the articles, the decision of Bradlee to print, the memory of his own mistakes, his willingness to trust them? The politics and ethics of non-denial denials?
16. The character of 'Deep Throat'? A sense of unreality in the middle of realism, the night meetings, the contacts, the plant with the flag, the atmosphere of the garage, the devious way of revealing material, the advice to follow the money, the threat to their lives etc.? How credible a character was Deep Throat? The value of his information?
17. The importance of the sequences with Donald Segretti? The revelation of the trick smear campaigns etc.? Segretti's explanation of himself, why he did what he did, the prison sentence? The pathos and yet the evil in the character and what he had done?
18. The final mounting suspense? How did the film maintain suspense and interest, The speculations as regards identities, verifications, especially about Haldeman?
19. The final picture of their achievement? Showing the office and the television with Nixon's inauguration?
20. What were the major issues? How well were they delineated and presented? The accomplishment of the film?