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J. Edgar Hoover

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Because the President’s limousine passed almost exactly in front of Dallas clothing manufacturer Abraham Zapruder on Nov. 22, 1963, just as he was playing with his new film camera, and precisely at the moment that Lee Harvey Oswald fired his rifle from a nearby books depository, his silent, 26.6-second home movie has become the focal point of America’s collective memory on that weird day. For many of us, especially those who weren’t alive when it happened, we’re all watching that event through Zapruder’s lens.

Other footage from the scene turns up here and there, becomes fodder for documentaries (like this new one disproving the “second shooter” theory). But Zapruder’s film is still the canonical ur text of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the most complete and most chilling visual record. In many ways, it prefigured all sorts of American pastimes, from widespread paranoia about government to a loss of faith in photographic truth and the news media, from the acceptance of graphic violence to newer concerns about copyright. Don DeLillo once said that the little film “could probably fuel college courses in a dozen subjects from history to physics.” Without the 486 frames of Kodachrome II 8mm safety film, our understanding of JFK’s assassination would likely be an even greater carnival of conspiracy theories than it already is. Well, maybe.

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Clint Eastwood and Warner Bros. decided to skip this fall’s festival circuit with the biopic J. Edgar. While a good many of the other major fall studio releases have been seen and reviewed in the past three weeks via Telluride, Venice and TIFF, we’ve seen nothing from this biography of America’s most powerful lawman, the first director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover.

Now the shroud is off the film as Warner Bros. released the first trailer for Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort, in which Leonardo DiCaprio plays the FBI chief and Armie Hammer (The Social Network) appears as his second-in-command and rumored love, Clyde Tolson. See the trailer below.

The trailer opens with an in-character narration by DiCaprio as Hoover, before going into a montage of Hoover’s young life and early days with the Bureau. Clyde Tolson is shown as a starry-eyed fan of Hoover, but their relationship isn’t so one-sided, as suggested by a later shot. We see Hoover’s obsession with information and the power it gives him over political figures. In all: looks like more or less the biopic one would expect.

And, just in case you thought Clint Eastwood might change up the measured, calm style he has practiced in the past, forget it: this is pure, deliberate Eastwood. In this case, that’s probably a good thing. Too early to judge the overall impact of the film based on just this bit of footage, but the period recreation appears to be spot-on without feeling put on.

Apple has the HD trailer.

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