Topic: Secret Honor

Oh hey, remember this board? I couldn't find a "recommend a movie" thread in Off-Topic, so fuck it. tongue

The setup of Robert Altman's 1984 picture Secret Honor is a simple one. Philip Baker Hall, as Richard Nixon, sits by himself in his office post-resignation, ranting into a tape recorder over the great betrayal that has been committed against him. For ninety minutes. That's it.

It's not hyperbole when I say that Hall's performance in this is one of the greatest in the history of cinema. For an hour and a half, he and he alone carries the movie. He rants, he raves, he slobbers and mewls, alternating between euphoric, delirious nostalgia and futile, towering rage. That he's coherent is a miracle in and of itself—Nixon is constantly stumbling over himself, stammering, and roaring, doing all the work of the collective cast of a David Mamet play, and Hall never once flubs his continuous rant (granted, this is a movie, but he originated the role in the stage version, delivering the same hysterical cry into the wind in one go night after night). But he's more than coherent, he's riveting. As Nixon Hall is at once a titanic, mythic figure and a pathetic, stunted little man. The more his histrionics go on the smaller he shrinks, as though the archetype of Tricky Dick is growing by leeching Nixon the man of his life-force. If Hall had tipped his hand too far to either extreme, his character would have utterly failed, too pitiful to hold our attention or too vast and broad to be taken seriously. The paradox he pulls off is astonishing.

I've seen this movie a couple of times, but I haven't revisited it since the election. When I do, I'm sure it'll resonate all the more. Nixon is obviously a precursor of Trump in many ways, the biggest of which is that Trump is living his own Secret Honor every day. The difference is that where this movie takes place in the seclusion of Nixon's home, Trump is staging his own dark night of the soul on Twitter for all the world to see.

I posted this because Secret Honor is currently available to watch for free on YouTube. I don't know how much longer that'll be the case, so do plunge in while you have the chance.

Re: Secret Honor

Wowwwwww. Thanks for the review and the heads-up; had no idea this existed, and I've been reading a big three-part Nixon biography lately, so this is perfect timing.

Teague Chrystie

I have a tendency to fix your typos.

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Re: Secret Honor

Awesome! I need to do more reading on him myself, I've done THE FINAL DAYS and have a copy of ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN but otherwise haven't researched him much in print outside of histories of the 70s/Henry Kissinger/etc. that he's related to.

Re: Secret Honor

You know what's fun about crazy presidents? The scale goes so high.

Nixon was seriously a fucking schmuck, from jump. Same patterns go all the way back.

Andrew Jackson was a flaming candy bar, too.

Teague Chrystie

I have a tendency to fix your typos.

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Re: Secret Honor

Oh dude, have you heard of the musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson? It's a satire on the craziness of that administration/the "emo rock" years of America and it's SO GOOD. Also prefigures our current political situation in so many ways, as this opening song demonstrates.



Re: Secret Honor

Andrew Jackson and emo rock?

Hold my beer.

Teague Chrystie

I have a tendency to fix your typos.

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Re: Secret Honor

Eat your heart out, Hamilton.

Re: Secret Honor

Well, I've already got Hamilton memorized, so bottom's up.  tongue

Later: Wellllllllllllll that was honestly fairly disappointing, sorry to say. Listened to the whole thing; had its moments; I liked Rock Star. Glad I'm aware of it now, in any case. Thanks for bringin' it up.

Teague Chrystie

I have a tendency to fix your typos.

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Re: Secret Honor

Ah well, worth the shot! I promise you'll like Secret Honor much better. tongue

Last edited by DarthPraxus (2017-12-09 22:19:43)