Cinema: Watergate on Film

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Those parts were always at war." It was a war, as it turned out, which he could not win on either front. Pakula could not be forced to speed his pace, perhaps in part because Hoffman liked talk and retakes too, and inevitably the picture fell behind. In the end it was 35 days over schedule and $3.5 million over budget.

The principals—Robards, Jack Warden, who played Metro-editor Harry Rosenfeld, and Martin Balsam, who played Managing Editor Howard Simons—had to be present on the set every day because Pakula had decided to shoot the city room sequences in "deep focus." This meant that even when these players did not have any lines, they were visible in the background of most scenes. They coped as cheerfully as they could with the situation. Robards would often simply retire to "his"—that is, Bradlee's—office and read the books that had presumably helped shape the character of the man he was playing (needless to say, Bradlee's office library had been duplicated on the set). Sometimes he would write letters to his children on Post stationery, with which his lair was also plentifully supplied. A convivial man, Robards also passed time swapping jokes with Balsam and Warden, or speculating on the real identity of Deep Throat. At one point they all concluded that he was doubtless a she—possibly Rose Mary Woods or a fed-up Pat Nixon.

The question is, after all the pain and bad feelings, was it worth it? The answer is yes, and one reason for that answer is Redford. If he was never completely satisfied with any of his coworkers' contributions, he turned out to be a shrewd editor of their work, choosing from their offerings that which fitted—and expanded—his original conception of the film. He realized, for example, that Goldman was not entirely wrong when he perceived at the outset that the film required a leavening note of newspaper humor and camaraderie. The journalistic world is one where power asserts itself in human terms—with a joke or an epithet. It is also one where the troops can express their mildly mutinous feelings in a similarly easy manner. It seems to invite the visual treatment Pakula employed in the newsroom sequences, which is bright, open, healthy. That, in turn, makes even more vivid the sequences in which Pakula exercises his special gift for suggesting menace through indirect visual statement. When the reporters leave their oasis of light to pursue their investigations, Washington—that city of broad avenues and vistas—becomes, as Pakula visualizes it, a dark and scary place. Its great public buildings loom up suddenly and oppressively out of the shadows, dominating, seeming to threaten the tiny figures of the ever-hustling newsmen. When, finally, they begin to penetrate the homes of potential informants, the material the reporters seek comes haltingly, fearfully, from people who, even in familiar surroundings, seek to shelter themselves in dimness. It is only when their sources begin to open up, to find release in confession, that they begin to be seen in full and, literally, sympathetic light. In these moments one knows that Redford has given his director free rein, confident that good would come of it.

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