Secret Honor (with Philip Baker Hall in person!)

After the screening, Philip Baker Hall will be in conversation with Sam Fragoso, host of Talk Easy.

A loaded revolver, a bottle of whiskey, a tape recorder, and a fleet of surveillance monitors: these are Nixon’s only friends in Robert Altman’s criminally underseen masterpiece. Phillip Baker Hall’s Nixon broods, sputters, and rants – recounting with frustration and paranoia his life and disgraced career – in a single, unbroken monologue (interrupted chiefly by Dick telling his inanimate interlocutor, “Roberto, erase that” as he rambles into absurdist tangents). Originally written for the stage by a political dramatist and a former NSA and DOJ lawyer, Secret Honor counter-mythologizes Nixon, imagining him as a paid shill for a greater American political conspiracy, with Watergate as the public-facing controversy which hid from view the “real” corruption behind the throne. A favorite of Paul Thomas Anderson (who later cast Hall in Sydney, Boogie Nights, and Magnolia), Altman’s enrapturing investigation of power is also an ancestor of the independent film movement – shot on a shoestring budget for his filmmaking class at the University of Michigan – a visual exercise in space, pacing, and restraint.

Print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Dir. Robert Altman, 1984, 35mm, 90 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer