Reviewed By Nick Tesco
The Reagan Show Directed by Pacho Velez and Sierra Pettengill this portrait cum documentary of Ronal Reagan unfurls solely through film clips from TV news programmes and White House archive material. There’s no new footage, no portentous commentary so the viewer is left to judge for themselves what substance, if any, Reagan actually possessed.
Focusing on the narrow topic of the arms reduction negotiations and treaty with the USSR, but not exclusively, the realisation slowly dawns that here was a man acting a role for some unknown body. As is always the case there is no obvious conspiracy, merely the understanding that vested interests were acting with impunity. All the familiar tropes are there for the aspiring right wing putative “leader of the free world” (© any right wing American), the use of simplistic language, evil, empire, freedom ad infinitum, the equating of freedom with the right to make money and the vacuity at the heart of the beast.
Like some aging thespian Reagan is shown repeating the same joke over and over again, couching it in his phoney cosiness until, in a late clip, Gorbachev points out that Reagan has used the same quote every single time he has spoken on the matter. Unlike the current horror show in the White House the Reagan administration attempted to manipulate the press in a far subtler fashion in order to distract from some of the very real scandals that were lapping around their feet, like the Iran-Contra affair. All the while there is the growing suspicion, later borne out by history, that Reagan was starting to show signs of losing his grip on his surroundings.
For a person who lived through those times the memories of imminent destruction are brought back sharply into focus, particularly in light of current events; the difference being that Reagan could deliver his lines, written by an adult with proper adjectives, verbs and facts, whereas the current incumbent stumbles around like an eight year old struggling with an essay written for him by a doting mother. The 80s look so distant now, the pre digital, pre mobile times seem so different but so much the same with the early stirrings of a far right Republicanism that had been nurtured and encouraged by Reagan’s administration testing its powers when faced with the possibility of a real arms deal.
It’s a timely reminder that the USA can veer between sense and insensibility like a narcoleptic driver. Proving once again that those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it in the less imaginative sequel. The Reagan Show is a strong warning from the past, so watch those parking meters.
Directors: Sierra Pettengill, Pacho Velez
Writers: Josh Alexander, Francisco Bello
Stars: Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev
The Reagan Show is on general release on Friday 6th of September