September is Classic 70s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Arnaud Talaia.
Title: All the President’s Men
Writers: Carl Bernstein & Bob Woodward ( authors of the book) / William Goldman (screenwriter)
Lead Actors: Robert Redford & Dustin Hoffman
Director: Alan J. Pakula
IMDB Plot Summary: Reporters Woodward and Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Nixon’s resignation.
Why I think this a classic 70s Movie: Watergate anyone? The biggest political scandal of the last century (relax now, W, I said, the LAST century : no need to lose the paintbrush…) happened right at the beginning of the 70s and this movie comes out 4 years after the Washington Posts white knights got on their horses and only 2 years after Nixon’s resignation.
Let’s join our hands for a minute, close our eyes and for those of you who had been born, let us remember the 70s. Do you feel the craving for it, the melancholy maybe?
This was the time when serious reporters did actually have some space to play investigative. This was a time when the press could call itself “the 4th power” in its own right. A time when bombs exploded on paper making real casualties amongst bad people with far too much power (for the kids reading : “paper” was kind of the same as an ipad except you had to move up the page in front of your eyes to be able to scroll down).
In fact, the very first image of the movie lets the viewer know that words are nothing less than a weapon, as a type writer crashes letters on a page with an amplified sound which would have had Bullit run for safety in ever tighter pants.
Sure, those reporters did have to pass their story through the unforgiving strander of their boss and their editorial board but that’s exactly the beauty of it! The whole movie is almost entirely about fact checking.
That’s it. Just that. The reputation of the Newspaper was on the line. And, as journalism ethic and wisdom would have it, the fountain of truth has to have many sources.
Easy you might say… And somewhere you’re right. Internet had yet to be invented. Reporters had some time to put in investigation. They were not yet in concurrence with bloggers and, come to think of it, I’m quite sure they had a salary too.
Ah, the good old days!
That is if you could bear the never ending white noise of 50 type writers and parkinson inducing phone dialers which you can accurately hear during 3/4 of the movie.
No wonder personal computers and touch pad phones were invented around that time !
All in all, “All the President’s Men” is a great piece about the anti-room of the 70′s History, adapted from the book of the very two men who uncovered the story of a President eavesdropping on his opponent and playing dirty tricks ( bad, bad President!). It’s a movie about professionalism, collaboration and free press. And it’s still a great watch!
My favorite moment in the movie:
Redford and Hoffman…
I mean, really : how good does that sound??
There’s a scene where the two reporters meet at Redford’s place to exchange notes. Hoffman plays the itchy caffeinated journalist who has been charming a witness into talking all night. He empties his pockets of napkins and wrinkled pieces of paper on which he wrote down information. Redford types feverishly on the typewriter.
The dialogue is flooding so easily, the alchemy between those two monsters is so sparkling that it hurts!
At one point, Hoffman and Redford face each other and the camera focuses back and forth on one actor at a time. Then suddenly, Hoffman gets a cookies jar and throws one crispy disk to Redford who catches it, adding matter of factly “I don’t want a cookie” and carries on with his line of dialogue.
If this was scripted, I wonder how many dead cookies find a last residency at the foot of the wall behind Redford. And if this was not scripted, well, these guys just showed what any playful actor can bring to the natural feeling of a scene. Loved this detail!
My favorite dialogue in the Movie: Bernstein and Woodward are bringing the news to their boss ( Ben Bradlee) that their lives could very well be in jeopardy. They take him outside his house for fear of being taped.
At that point of the story, the tension has gone up one more inch, yet the reporters don’t lose their cool and the character played by Hoffman shows he’s all the more ready to crack his wit into the wind!
Irony is best served cold in hot circumstances…
Bradlee: Surveillance? Who’s doing it?
Woodward: It’s been done. People’s lives are in danger. Maybe even ours.
Bradlee: What happened to that justice source of yours?
Bernstein: Well, I guess I made the instruction too complicated because he thought I said “hang up” when I said “hang on”…
Bradlee: Oh, Jesus.
Key things you should look for when you watch this movie: Pakula has been known for being a master at filming paranoia thrillers and this film takes the lead.
One scene plays specifically with our nerves when “Deep Throat”, the CIA secret informant disappears in a David Copperfield kind of way, leaving Redford all alone in a dark dark underground park house. As he walks back on the rain soaked and deserted street, he starts running anxiously. We start fearing for his life when he suddenly flips towards the camera, checking to see if he’s being followed. He’s paranoid and we get the jumps!
That was the moment I promised myself I’ll never stalk Redford ever again.
How about you?
Thanks, Arnaud! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!
You may follow Arnaud on Twitter: @bubblybull.
We already have a set of 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 70s Movies.
Thanks to all of you for your participation in this project, creating a resource for writers, movies we should all watch to help learn the craft of screenwriting!