Based on the book of the same name by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, The Hunting Of The President is an interesting look at the supposed conspiracy to destroy Bill Clinton from his early days in Arkansas state government up to his impeachment trial in the White House.
Hillary Clinton called it a right wing conspiracy and while many dismissed her comments at the time as defensive and maybe a little bit paranoid, this film gives her a little credence there. The Hunting Of The President goes into a fair amount of detail surrounding the Whitewater scandal and the attempted impeachment trial based on Bill Clinton's much lauded sexual escapades both inside and outside of the White House.
Many of the players involved in both scandals are represented in this film through news clips, with a few of them newly interviewed and spliced in between said blasts from the past. Essentially what the film builds through this method is a sympathetic but not necessarily entirely forgiving reconstruction of sorts. The filmmakers introduce us to a lot of the people involved in cornering Clinton on the many accusations that were laid against him who we might not have heard of before, most of whom are bit part players from his time in Arkansas, or literal muckrakers with a penchant for tabloid journalism.
While the film doesn't necessarily excuse Clinton's behavior in some of his less than shining moments, what it does do is paint the other side of the story quite clearly and provide some interesting food for thought towards the theory that just maybe some of his exploits were more than a tiny bit exaggerated. Paula Jones is portrayed as a complete airhead out to make a name for herself, while Kenneth Starr is portrayed as a man with a very obvious agenda and not so much an honest sense of serving the public trust. Whether or not you agree with these portrayals is for you to decide but the film does do a convincing job of backing up its arguments with some less than flattering footage of both of these players in the big picture that was the Clinton years. Starr in particular is alleged to have gone a little overboard in his manic attempts to bring Clinton down, supposedly offering immunity to certain witnesses if they would go on record and testify against the president – if whether what they were supposed to say about him didn't really seem to matter to him.
Surprisingly, not all that much is said about the Monica Lewinsky affair and the details and out and out weirdness surrounding it. Seeing as this was the big reason that so many people saw Clinton as having fallen from grace so to speak in the later years of his second term as leader of the free world, it would seem to be an odd choice not to lend more focus to this event.
Seeing as the film was made by some known friends of the Clinton's, it should go without saying that it isn't going to really change the minds of any staunch Republicans out there regarding the idiosyncrasies of his presidency, but it does do an effective job of showing us that there was more to the details surrounding his case than some of the more conservative newscasters would have you believe.
The documentary is presented in its original 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen format. Most of the newer footage, made up of interviews with the key players in the events that unfolded at the time, look nice and clean. There are a few moments, mostly comprised of old news footage and the like, that don't look quite so snappy as the newer material but none of it is particularly bad looking. MPEG compression is almost non-existent and only a slight hint of edge enhancement is present in one or two spots during the playback of the movie.
The English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track comes with optional English and Spanish subtitles. The documentary is almost entirely dialogue based with only occasional sound effects and background music swelling up into the background. This track handles everything without and problems, as dialogue is consistently clean and clear without any serious comprehension problems. As with the video quality, some of the archival material doesn't sound as razor sharp as you might want it to, but such is the reality of dealing with archival material in the first place and none of it sounds bad enough that there are any serious problems because of it.
The most important supplement is a videotaped segment that shows Clinton himself introducing the film on stage at its premiere. He talks for roughly forty-five minutes and discusses, with a sense of humor, the historical context of the events that took place to shape the film as well as their impact on himself and America as a whole. Aside from that, the film's original trailer is also included, as is scene selection.
The Hunting Of The President is an interesting look at some of the weirdness that occurred during Clinton's presidency that tells a different side of the story from what we saw on the nightly news without exonerating him of his shortcomings. The DVD release from Fox has decent audio and video and contains an interesting bonus introduction. For history/politics buffs, this one comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.