257 Secret Honor

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Martha
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257 Secret Honor

#1 Post by Martha » Tue Nov 02, 2004 9:38 pm

Secret Honor

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Sequestered in his home, a disgraced President Richard Milhous Nixon arms himself with a bottle of scotch and a gun to record memoirs that no one will hear. He is surrounded by the silent portraits of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Kissinger, and his mother, as he resurrects his past in a passionate attempt to defend himself and his political legacy. Based on the original play by Donald Freed and Arnold M. Stone, and starring Philip Baker Hall in a tour de force solo performance, Robert Altman's Secret Honor is a searing interrogation of the Nixon mystique and an audacious depiction of unchecked paranoia.

Special Features

• New high-definition digital transfer, with restored image and sound
• Audio commentaries with director Robert Altman and co-writer Donald Freed
• New 22-minute video interview with actor Philip Baker Hall
• 81 minutes of archival-film excerpts from the political career of President Richard M. Nixon
• English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
• Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition
• Plus: an essay by film critic Michael Wilmington

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peerpee
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#2 Post by peerpee » Fri Nov 05, 2004 12:35 am

The 22-minute Philip Baker Hall interview (2004) on this disc is superb. The 81 minutes of Nixon footage is a brilliant pile of propaganda rubbish - wonderful extras.

Napoleon
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#3 Post by Napoleon » Fri Nov 05, 2004 6:18 am

Its a pretty damn wonderful film. Initial thoughts were mmmm...ropey looking image. I didn't notice it again through out the films duration.

The pacing and performance of Hall make this the fastest moving, one man, zero budget, play to films I'm ever likely to see.

Napoleon
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#4 Post by Napoleon » Fri Nov 05, 2004 10:57 am

All that I knew is that Hunter S Thompson taught his dog to bark at the sound of Nixon's name.

It wouldn't hurt to brush up on Nixon's background, a web search will bring up as much or as little info as you require.

However, it isn't important to know the historical background of the man. The film is really more about the battle between the good and evil of a mans soul (and that man just happens to be Dicky). The only political aspect of the film is the fact that all the pivotal events in his life happened to be political.

I can't recommend it enough, though perhaps you should wait for a second non-American recommendation?

drpauligari
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#5 Post by drpauligari » Tue Nov 09, 2004 10:45 am

And are there any readers out there that can tell me why Altman hates Reagan so much?
Reaganomics
Central America
Libya
Grenada
relationship with Thatcher
Knute Rockne, All American


etc., etc., etc...

Anonymous

#6 Post by Anonymous » Tue Nov 09, 2004 10:54 am

I think Hall's performance in Secret Honor may be one of the top 5 or so performances I have ever seen, especially in the tour-de-force category. Not much subtlety, but all the mannerisms are there and he presents Nixon as this genuine human instead of the crazy caricature.

The "four more years!" that drones out the ending is eerily prophetic...

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Faux Hulot
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#7 Post by Faux Hulot » Tue Nov 09, 2004 11:24 am

...he presents Nixon as this genuine human instead of the crazy caricature.
Altman should have put Neil Young on the soundtrack:

"Down neon streets the streaker streaks,
the speaker speaks, but the truth still leaks,
where even Richard Nixon has got soul.
Even Richard Nixon has got it... soul."

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#8 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Tue Nov 16, 2004 5:27 pm

I think Hall's performance in Secret Honor may be one of the top 5 or so performances I have ever seen, especially in the tour-de-force category. Not much subtlety, but all the mannerisms are there and he presents Nixon as this genuine human instead of the crazy caricature.
agreed. like Anthony Hopkins in Nixon, Philip Baker Hall really captures the spirit of the man and especially his troubled quality that made him such a fascinatingly flawed figure.

I really enjoyed the wide range of emotions that Hall conveyed, from his confession/defending his sins as he rambles incoherently to sometimes comic effect. For example, when he talks about the Kennedy assassination and the subsequent killing of Lee Harvey Oswald by Ruby he says, �Look, I�m not saying two rights make a wrong.� Hah. Hall also really conveyed poignant moments like when Nixon reminiscences about his childhood. �When I was a child, the sweetest sound I ever heard was the sound of the Santa Fe railway.�

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#9 Post by cdnchris » Sun Mar 06, 2005 1:35 am

Oh my God, this film caught me off guard. I put off getting it, but I got a killer deal on it ($23.99 CDN brand spanking new--mispricing rocks, because it's not my fault if they put the wrong sticked price on it!) so I had to pick it up.

I threw it in, expecting something that I would like, but considering the subject matter I wasn't sure I would love it. Wow! What a great film.

I think what shocked me so much was how fast the film went by. I wasn't expecting it to move like that. I was thinking it would move a leisurely pace, maybe me finding it tedious occasionally, but I was quite hooked. I don't know if I can comment too much on Altman's handling. Yeah, he planned it out great with the cuts and the movement and so on, but this film would have fallen apart and would have been a dreadful bore if anyone other than Hall played the role. As much as I liked Hopkins in Nixon, I somehow doubt he could have even pulled this off.

He was just incredibly intense and passionate. He doesn't really look or sound like Nixon, but he gets lost in the character and you accept him.

I will admit I'm not totally familiar with Nixon, just stuff my dad told me, stuff from Thompson and of course Stone's film (and now the archive footage on this DVD) and I feel because of that I didn't understand everything Tricky Dick was talking about (some political names I don't recognize), but of course it may also have to do with the fact he finishes mid-thought with "shit! fuck! son of a bitch!" (I think this film holds the record for swearing in the whole collection.)

But I didn't care. I'll have to go through it again, take some notes and research some stuff so I can come back to it again with a different perspective, but it doesn't really matter. This film was great and I think I have just become an even bigger fan of Hall, who I only really recognized before from small roles and Anderson's films (and Seinfeld of course.) The fact he can carry a film like this and keep it from being anywhere near boring (though I guess really I'm only speaking for myself) is just a testament to his skills (and Altman's as well)

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quequeg
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#10 Post by quequeg » Sat Aug 12, 2006 1:51 pm

I agree with the previous posters that this is a great overlooked film and a great performance by Philip Baker Hall. I also appreciate the extras. It is interesting to contrast Nixon's performance in speeches and news conferences with that of the current President. We remember Nixon as being a stonewaller, but he was surprisingly open and honest in many of his statements. I can not imagine ever hearing such candor from President Bush.

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#11 Post by geoffcowgill » Sat Jun 30, 2007 12:15 am

I just got this disc having not seen the movie in well over a decade. It really is quite amazing, and it shows you how much we've lost with Altman's passing. Apart from his brilliance with the camera, that almost disorienting way he has of turning our attention to an object and holding it just long enough that the camera eye starts to go into a daze before snapping us back to what we're 'supposed to be' watching with graceful fluidity of movement, his passion and idiosyncracy in choice of material is all too rare in the world of film. I suppose there are probably American filmmakers out there now who might seize on an inspired piece of underground political agitprop theatre and make a film of it, but I certainly don't know who they are. This movie was made smack dab in the wilderness years for Altman, and, modest as it is in a way, it is likely one of his best.

The writing is pretty impressive as well. The abstract naturalism of it reminds me of Mamet or Pinter and Philip Baker Hall, as has been noted, is truly phenomenal in delivering these lines, this line, as it all seems like a single continuous stream-of-consciousness thought, Nixon as Molly Bloom. My favorite moment is when he's on his knees, having just appealed to his mother's spirit by "arf"ing as Good Dog Richard. He says in a poetic trance "I wish you / would come back / right now, / mama." It's in a staccato, some odd variant of a line of iambic pentameter, and ended strangely and hauntingly, sounding like a question.

I thought at first that the pricing was a bit steep for a single disc, reasonably short, low-budget movie, but the extras are really special. The Nixon clips are a much more interesting way of grounding the film in the historical context than any other approach to doing this I can think of would be. The Hall interview, as has been said, is really interesting. It's amazing that he still couldn't get arrested even as he was getting well deserved acclaim for this performance. The commentary by Freed, while at times a bit smug and grandiloquent, is remarkably informative for someone like myself who was a bit too ignorant about exactly what Bohemian Grove was and the like. And I haven't even listened to the Altman commentary yet, but those are always enjoyable.

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#12 Post by s.j. bagley » Sat Jun 30, 2007 4:03 pm

I must also agree on hall's performance being utterly brilliant. It's a shame that this title so rarely comes up in discussions I've seen about Altman.

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der_Artur
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#13 Post by der_Artur » Mon Sep 29, 2008 2:01 pm

A maybe strange question: The synopsis says that "Nixon arms himself with a bottle of scotch". But is it evident which brand he is drinking?
I ask this because I give this DVD as a present to a friend (who likes Nixon, stage dramas and Scotch) and would like to improve the package by adding a bottle of the same Scotch Nixon enters the room with. (Gun laws in Germany make it to difficult to add the revolver)

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#14 Post by greggster59 » Mon Sep 29, 2008 2:17 pm

Alas, the scotch is in an unmarked decanter. Any good single malt should do. :)

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#15 Post by kaujot » Mon Sep 29, 2008 2:19 pm

According to some sources (Band of Brothers, among others), Vat 69 is Nixon's favorite Scotch.

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der_Artur
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#16 Post by der_Artur » Mon Sep 29, 2008 2:44 pm

That should suffice, thank both of you you a lot.

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kaujot
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#17 Post by kaujot » Mon Sep 29, 2008 2:48 pm

Actually, scratch what I said. From MUCH more reliable sources, Nixon drank Famous Grouse

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Minkin
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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#18 Post by Minkin » Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:25 pm


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Svevan
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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#19 Post by Svevan » Mon Aug 23, 2010 5:24 pm

The last batch of Criterion reviews from the Beaver seem to have terrible compression. That is not, by memory, what Secret Honor looks like. The other new Crit reviews look just as bad, as if they've all had the same compression applied to them.

bamwc2
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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#20 Post by bamwc2 » Mon Aug 23, 2010 5:39 pm

Svevan wrote:The last batch of Criterion reviews from the Beaver seem to have terrible compression. That is not, by memory, what Secret Honor looks like. The other new Crit reviews look just as bad, as if they've all had the same compression applied to them.

Hmm. I made the caps a few weeks ago and unfortunately, all of the discs are back in storage already. I just made the switch from Paintshop to ThumbsPlus 8 for handling pictures, so it's within the realm of imagination that I don't have something set right. On the other hand, these are the same compression settings that I've used for all of the reviews that I've done in the last few weeks, including the ballyhooed BFI BDs. I'll double check, but I have the compression settings to where Gary recommended.

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Person
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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#21 Post by Person » Tue Aug 24, 2010 5:32 am

Minkin wrote:DVD Beaver
Woah! The Criterion transfer of Secret Honor looks nothing like that on my TV, thank heavens! Yes, very strange screencaps!

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Cold Bishop
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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#22 Post by Cold Bishop » Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:05 am

People forget that the DP on this was Georges Seurat.

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knives
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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#23 Post by knives » Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:26 am

beaver wrote:That bare description may make "Secret Honor" sound like "My Dinner with Andre," but rarely have I seen ninety more compelling minutes on the screen.
[-X
Anyone else notice that? The description, plus about ten minutes, fits My dinner with Andre just fine.

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Person
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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#24 Post by Person » Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:42 am

Cold Bishop wrote:People forget that the DP on this was Georges Seurat.
Indeed. Georgie was lamp-man on many 16mm shows. And a damn fine job he did on them.

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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#25 Post by bamwc2 » Tue Aug 24, 2010 8:44 am

Person wrote:
Minkin wrote:DVD Beaver
Woah! The Criterion transfer of Secret Honor looks nothing like that on my TV, thank heavens! Yes, very strange screencaps!
I double checked and my caps came out the same as they looked before I saved them with the compression rates them. I also tried taking caps of other SD discs and they looked the same as well. I suspect that the problem is just the fact that the image was paused when I took them. The image looks much smoother in motion.

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