Les hommes du président


All the President’s Men (États-Unis, 1976), un film de Alan J. Pakula avec Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford et Jack Warden. Durée : 2h18. Reprise France : 19 octobre 2016. Produit par Warner Bros et distribué par Ciné Sorbonne.

Splendide performance de Dustin Hoffman et Robert Redford, pour un film très documenté et qui tout du long se concentre sur le duo improbable que forment les deux journalistes à l’origine du Watergate, sur leur obstination et leur fidélité au métier – on comprend qu’il ait fait naître des vocations. Le film est un chef d’oeuvre de tension alors qu’il ne cède rien au sensationnel : l’essentiel se déroule dans la newsroom du Washington Post et dans des échanges avec différentes personnalités susceptibles de devenir des sources (agents du FBI, membres du comité de la campagne républicaine, et bien sûr Deep Throat que l’on n’aperçoit jamais que dans l’ombre d’un parking). Un article écrit par un assistant du réalisateur revient sur la manière dont les bureaux du journal ont été méticuleusement reconstitués :

Pakula brought the best of the old school sensibility to the project. He pulled Redford away from his idea of copying the reality of a certain kind of documentary. This could never be a documentary, he said, and even if it could nobody’d want to watch it. Hollywood has made an art of elevating the mundane. That’s what movie stars do for a living, make the everyday transcendent. Grab what you’ve got. Don’t dye your hair. Use being Robert Redford. Watergate was an epochal moment for America. Let’s feel its importance in every frame. Yes, the audience had to believe. But it also had to be transported. That was Hollywood’s art form.

But first they had to believe. How do you convince them? Using the exact shade of institutional orange for the desks in the newsroom actually makes a difference. The actor believes in the film’s reality that little bit more. The viewer relaxes his guard. Pakula and Redford decided to capture the football field–sized newsroom in precise detail. We built its duplicate on a Warner Bros. soundstage, decorated with trash transported from the real one in Washington. The press made much of this.

Our designer George Jenkins was a courtly gentleman who’d done Pakula’s other pictures and been an art director since The Best Years of Our Lives in 1946. But this film required a new sort of look, a literal reality. We had desks for 160 journalists (the actual pressroom held 180), and Jenkins wanted each workplace to reflect the personality of a specific reporter. He could count on George Gaines, the set decorator, to come up with 20 or 30 reporter personalities, but then he’d start repeating himself. It would feel phony. So Jenkins had a simple solution. He took a picture of every desktop in the Postnewsroom. He printed them 8×10, stuck each one in the top drawer of its Burbank counterpart, and told Gaines to recreate it.

L’article revient aussi sur un des très bons passages du film, quand Redford essaye de comprendre au téléphone qui est la personne dont le nom figure sur les comptes ayant payé l’opération au Watergate. Le plan est splendide, il dure 6 minutes et se resserre progressivement sur le visage de Redford.

To keep the newsroom alive and always a part of the story, Willis introduced a new lens, or rather a sliver of a lens called a split diopter, that held a slice of background sharp while our reporter talked in focus up front. He and Pakula let the phone calls play out in real time with a minimum of cuts. Their masterpiece shot has Redford at his desk trying to track down a name on a check in the Watergate burglar’s account — for a full six minutes. In the background the newsroom watches Tom Eagleton resign as McGovern’s running mate. The scene begins in medium; Redford at his desk while the folks in the background huddle around a TV. The camera slowly, imperceptibly moves in (while a camera assistant eases out the split diopter) until four minutes later we are tight on Redford at the moment when he learns that the money used to fund the burglars came from the Committee to Re-Elect the President. This one shot took the better part of the day to set up.

Most movie shots are measured in seconds. Here Redford had to play six unbroken minutes of note-taking and phone calls to strangers so that we’re caught in the escalating drama. But he had the actor’s gift. He could make us believe. He cared so we cared. Without time jumps or shifts in angle we experience the real rhythms of the story and trust them, and give ourselves up to Redford’s charisma.

After more hours of struggles and mishaps, we finally had a good take. Redford and Pakula were pleased. They’d done it. The moment, which might have felt stagy, plodding, or contrived, worked. Redford was an actor who didn’t like reshooting. Pakula huddled with him. Redford tried once more. Knowing he had it already loosened him up. His new ease oiled the tension and the scene snapped. It’s his triumph in the picture.

D’autres passages sur des détails du film :

Pakula wanted to contrast shadowy Washington with the unforgiving glare of the newsroom. So our Post, in which the bulk of the movie was shot, was lit with the harsh fluorescent lights of the real thing. This was a dangerous choice; pictures weren’t lit that way. The light is flat and general. Office fluorescents are blind to certain colors and they flicker. Willis found a full color-spectrum fluorescent for the overheads, and made banks of smaller tubes he could bring in for strategic enhancement. The room looked vibrant and unforgiving, just what Pakula wanted. But fluorescent wasn’t bright enough for the daylight scenes we see outside the windows. Willis had to have a greenish gel made to coat the windows so he could use incandescent lights on the window transparencies.

First try, the windows glowed pink, which took us to several days to solve. There’s still one distant pink window in the picture. The fluorescents also created a problem for Jim Webb, the sound man. Each overhead fixture came complete with its small, buzzing transformers. So George Jenkins placed all the transformers outside the set, and ran a separate wire from each one to its overhead tube. Miles of copper wiring, no buzz.

Pakula opened the picture with 18 seconds of silence and blank white blur. He jiggered the length to make it as long, as creepily unsettling, as he could get away with. Who starts a picture with nothing? Is the projector even working? Squirming in the seats. Then the jarring jolt of the first typewriter blow. For each letter, the effects editor laid in sound of a cannon blast, scraping off the boomy tail and overlapping instead the tail half of a whip crack. A cannon that cut like a bullwhip. We were working on magnetic film so this sound editing was done with razor blades. We overlaid this with just the right typewriter sound (we had six to choose from). In the pre-digital era, this was recorded from sprocketed magnetic film on reels that had to be rewound all together, then recorded onto tape at sound speed. Redford was particularly involved, poring over the effect again and again until balance and reverb was just right, solid and threatening, apocalyptic but real. Three hours on the mixing stage.