In Brexit: The Uncivil War, Leave campaigner Dominic Cummings had a special talent - detecting the mood of the country; it appeared as a low humming noise only he was able to translate.
It’s a handy skill. But listen hard and you may hear another ghost in the machine, this one revealing shadow secrets about the Trump era.
It’s not The Donald but his forebear, Richard Nixon. Paranoid Nixon taped everything that went on in the Oval Office, and the recordings have added spectral poignancy to a couple of recent podcasts: Bag Man, about Nixon’s crooked Vice-President Spiro Agnew; and Slow Burn, about Watergate.
Nixon’s voice also haunts Kissinger, a feature-length documentary in which the unseen Niall Ferguson grills Trickie Dickie’s Secretary of State about his career. Henry Kissinger used to call his boss 10 times a day. They shared everything.
“The senior diplomat of the world” was a global superstar, pow-wowing with Mao and - it says here - dating movie starlets by night. But listen to Nixon’s voice on the phone, sounding boastful and needy: “You know,” he says, talking about himself, “that speech was a real gem, wasn’t it?” His faithful colleague replies: “Oh, that was a beauty.”
Ferguson does not do for his subject what David Frost did for Nixon, but it’s fascinating in its way. Kissinger is a dom-ineering presence, untroubled by modesty. Do memories plague his ears like flies? No. The “so-called secret bombing of Cambodia?” All in a day’s work. The 1973 Chile coup in which Pinochet brutally ejected Salvador Allende’s elected government? There are “absolute values which should not be violated”, and Allende was, claims Kissinger, “to the left of the Communist Party, because he had no patience”. Domestic divisions: 1970’s Kent State shootings of student protesters by the Ohio National Guard? “Nixon was basically right.”
As a political interview, this can be filed alongside the shampoo-and-set Oliver Stone gave Fidel Castro in Comandante. There is no mea culpa. Kissinger points this out, in case the viewer hasn’t noticed.
But the historical detail is intriguing. The Soviet leaders “were like extinct volcanoes”. He notes the ping-pong table in the corridor on the way to meet Mao. He stares into the camera when talking about the evacuation of Vietnam, and seems to mumble direction to the film-maker. Something like: “Insert the helicopters leaving.” Did he really say that? History will be the judge; Kissinger is still writing the script.
Near the start of The Crimson Rivers, a naked Count is found dead in a forest on the German-French border, decapitated, disembowelled, an oak branch in his mouth. Happily, there are charismatic cops to investigate a case involving odd aristocrats, an angry gamekeeper and Nazi dogs. The procedure mostly involves finding ways to introduce the quirks of the cops, grizzly Pierre Niémans (Olivier Marchal) and gamine Camille Delaunay (Erika Sainte). It’s generic but briskly done, and happy to suggest that a wounded PC, on hearing a pack of angry hounds, would stagger into the woods to confront them.