Saturday, October 17, 2009


Tonight I watched the film "Frost/Nixon". Up until the near end I was actively rooting against the "character" of Richard Nixon (of course, it was based on reality, but for fuck's sake, it's a Ron Howard production). Anyways, if you've seen it, you might remember a scene near the end of the film. I'll set it up to remind you and/or describe it if you have yet to see it:

Richard Nixon exits a suburban, California home, emerging from the darkness of a brutal interview in which he appears as a desperately broken man. From his point of view, the focus of the camera is blurry when pointed at various reporters shouting questions at him. His body exhibiting his age, he pauses, winces as if confused, but regains focus upon the site of a random woman holding a small dog. Nixon asks the woman: "is this what you would call a Dachshund?" She nods yes, Nixon briefly pats the small dog's head, pauses, and moves on, haltingly.

And I weeped harder than I have in fucking years.

Now, Ron Howard is a very capable director, no doubt. And Frank Langella, who played the role of Nixon, was beyond excellent. But neither of them are reasons why I'll site as reasons for making me cry. Allow me to try to explain [pours a shot a whiskey and cracks a beer]:

#1: That scene reminded me why I decided to study film, and why I regret not perusing it since. After completing my studies, many years ago, I literally hated watching films. The constant need to dissect a scene, much like a frog, grew intolerable, and if I'm being honest, made me into a snob. Worse still, it nearly disallowed me to sit back and experience a film as what it was, instead of it's technical or narrative attributes (or lack thereof). In small doses over the past 2 years or so, I've been able to shed the asshole film-student perspective, and enjoy a film or a scene on it's own merits. But I digress...

#2: My best guess as to why a seemingly innocuous scene in a film made me emotional, results from when my father, and his father were both recently in Chicago to attend a wedding. I didn't go (I wasn't invited), but the 3 generations of us were briefly in the same space, a rare occurrence indeed. And from my young-ish perspective, I saw myself in both of them. And in this particular scene I made me think, that even if you're the biggest asshole on the face of the earth (which Nixon may very well have been at one time), traces of humanity still escape.

I'm not saying that my Father or his are assholes (though they were at times capable of being so) but when the 3 of us men were in the same room recently, I watched my ageing Father attempt to tie the tie of my very aged Grandpa, and struggle, while I, sitting quietly and watching with my right arm in a sling, unable to assist...somehow I just connected that to the scene of "Nixon" petting that Dachshund. Just a quiet, seemingly fleeting moment. My God, how film can sometimes mirror life itself, and more importantly vice versa.

It's fucking remarkable.


headbang8 said...

Hear, hear.

Dean Grey said...

This was really quite beautiful, Justin.

All people, even really terrible ones, can redeem themselves if they are sincere enough.

Pay close attention to the moment you experienced earlier today. I do believe it's trying to tell you something.

After I finished art college, I felt a bit detached from my work. It wasn't until I learned to paint in my own way, basically undoing all that I was taught, that I actually connected with my art.

It sounds like the same thing is happening to you. That your schooling has been replaced with what you WANT to learn about film, rather than what you were MADE TO learn.

Perhaps it's time you pursue a career in film again....whichever area suits you best.

Methinks a change is occurring within you, dear sir. And that is a very good thing!


Bruce said...

Hey Justin, that Dean guy is a VERY smart man!! Listen to him.

Dean Grey said...

Oh my!

Thank you, Bruce!

How nice of you to say!