Secret Honor | Chicago Reader

Secret Honor

Richard M. Nixon (Philip Baker Hall) locks himself in the study of his New York apartment with a glass of Scotch and a tape recorder to dictate his version of the Watergate story: his resignation was a matter of “secret honor,” meant to protect the country against the shock of an even bigger scandal. Another entry in Robert Altman's series of filmed plays, it follows the formula of the earlier Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean and Streamers: the dramatic material, overheated to begin with, is hyped up by hysterical acting and further exaggerated by a busy mise-en-scene based on meaningless camera movements and space-destroying zooms. As always in paranoid political fiction, the motives invented by playwrights Donald Freed and Arnold Stone to “explain” Nixon (basically, that he was in it for the money) turn out to be absurdly reductive and simpleminded—though that, perhaps, is why we find this kind of fiction so comforting in the face of an impenetrably complex reality (1984).

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