Best of Enemies
At first glance, Best of Enemies might not seem like riveting cinema; a documentary focusing on the 1968 televised debates between two men who have now been largely forgotten by the world. For anyone intellectually inclined, or with an interest in the politics and history of America, it must seem like a dream, but even for those whose knowledge is shaky at best Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon’s film is entirely gripping.
The debates in the summer of 1968 between liberal author Gore Vidal and William F Buckley Jr, darling of the new Republican movement, changed American television forever. Broadcast by ABC as a last ditch attempt to boost ratings during the Democratic and Republican conventions, Best of Enemies is a fascinating look of the events of, leading up to and following the debates and the two men who partook in them.
The documentary is told through vintage footage interspliced with commentary from friends, family, biographers and historians, with beautiful animation all against a backdrop of almost constant, and wonderfully apt, classical pieces. With Buckley, hailed as the great debater of his time and Vidal as the great talker, the debates themselves are gripping, witty and explosive. When edited together with the interviews, providing context and insight, they become all the more intriguing. The debates, Vidal and Buckley’s reactions, choice of words and mutually animosity are broken down and examined to create an in-depth portrait of the two and how ironically similar they were.
This documentary doesn’t just have value as a fascinating portrayal of the two men, it also functions as an in-depth look at a period of immense social and political change in America and a huge part of media history. It may not be something everyone will enjoy, but Neville and Gordon have done their best to make it accessible and interesting to everyone with an inclination towards history and intellectualism. The result is a truly spectacular piece of cinema.
Best of Enemies is released nationwide on 24th July 2015.
Watch a clip from Best of Enemies here: