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Oliver Stone Reveals a Vulnerable Putin

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Exclusive: The U.S. political/media demonization of Russia's Putin is unrelenting, but an interview series with director Oliver Stone poses tough questions to Putin while also letting Americans see the real person, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Before we stumble into a nuclear war and end life on the planet, the American people might want to watch Oliver Stone's four-part series of interviews with Russian President Vladimir Putin on "Showtime." Stone accomplishes what Western journalists should do but don't, by penetrating deeply into the personality of this historic figure.

Director Oliver Stone interviewing Russian President Vladimir Putin for Showtime's "The Putin Interviews."

Typically these days, American TV news personalities use interviews with a demonized foreign leader, like Putin, to demonstrate their own "toughness" on air, hurling insulting questions at the target and pretending that this preening behavior proves their courage.

In reality, it is bad journalism for a wide variety of reasons: The interview subject will normally retreat into canned talking points, so nothing is really learned; the TV viewer will get to see some theatrics but no insights into what makes the foreign leader tick; and – most importantly – chances of going to war with the despised leader's country increase.

Yet, it's not all bad: the "confrontation" will boost the career prospects of the self-aggrandizing "journalist" who will add the highlights of the insult-fest to his or her video résumé.

Stone does something quite different and, in today's modern world, quite remarkable. As you go deeper into the four segments of "The Putin Interviews," you begin to realize that Stone, the award-winning movie director, is using his directorial skills to peel back the layers of self-consciousness that can inhibit an actor from reaching his or her full potential, but, in this case, Stone is using those same techniques to get Putin to reveal more of his true self.

By coming across as unthreatening and personable – almost like the TV detective Columbo – Stone strips away many of Putin's defenses, creating a dynamic in which the Russian president struggles between his characteristic cautiousness and a willingness to be more candid.

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