Author Topic: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons  (Read 15575 times)

Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2015, 04:27:32 PM »
High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952)



Adam & Sam's take (starts around 17:20)

My knowledge of Westerns so far is limited to Sergio Leone, but something tells me this isn't quite the typical "classic" Western. Our hero, played by Gary Cooper, is a flawed man, and you get the sense that law & order aren't the only reasons he's going to meet Frank Miller at high noon. And while it ends with the bad guys defeated, we are left with a sour taste as people of the town flood out of their houses to congratulate the man they were fine abandoning to his fate a few minutes beforehand. That's more moral complexity that I was expecting from the genre, and probably part of the reason it's considered a classic.

The conceit here, which has us watching Cooper trying to raise a "posse" to face an outlaw who's just been pardonned, all in real time, is a very effective one. Zinnemann keeps coming back to shots of the clock or to the empty railroad, while Cooper gets rejected by everyone around town. This is very effective at creating tension for the final confrontation, while we meet character after character who all end up standing on the sidelines for various reasons, good or bad.

Zinnemann does a great job at making the town feel like a real place, with characters who have history with each other and conflicting aspirations. There's a deputy who's resentful because he's constantly dismissed as too young for the main job, there's a saloon owner who never liked the marshal much anyway and thinks a few outlaws might be good for business, and more importantly there's a Hispanic businesswoman who seems to be the wisest person in town, and decides to sell and leave before things get ugly.

Now where the film fails for me is in the villain department. They have a good introduction, when we see them ride into town and set up at the train station, and then... not much else. Frank Miller is hyped up as being the baddest outlaw around, and then... I wasn't even able to know which one he was in the final battle. When the cast of villains features a young Lee Van Cleef and you do so little with them, you've missed an opportunity. The whole climax overall is a bit of a letdown. It feels pretty contrived that these guys, who have been built up as being so scary that everyone thinks Cooper's marshall is crazy to even try, don't really try to use their numerical advantage.

There's also the whole wedding business, which doesn't fully work either. When Grace Kelly picks up the gun and kills one of the outlaws, it should be a big moment because she's a Quaker and is thus opposed to any form of violence, but it doesn't work because there's no sense of what her place is in this community. How did they even meet ? She doesn't seem to know anyone in town, so how did she come to marry the marshal ? We don't know, and we don't really care.

Re : the Gary Cooper discussion on the podcast. I'm firmly on Adam's side here, I think his performances is central and carries the film, as we see him grow more desperate and by the end he seems to be downright scared, which makes him a very relatable hero. I also agree that there is nuance in his reaction to the various rejections, especially that last one Adam comments on.

7/10 - Good

chardy999

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2015, 05:55:33 PM »
Cooper is the only thing in High Noon that isn't mediocre. The film is play-by-the-numbers the whole way through.
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Sandy

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2015, 07:16:19 PM »
I may add this to my Western Marathon, because I just can't remember if I've ever seen it, or have only heard about it for long. Great beginning review, Teproc!
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Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #13 on: November 21, 2015, 05:21:34 PM »
The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)



Adam & Sam's take

Imitating the early days of Filmspotting/Cinecast, I'll start with what I liked here. The shot above is an example of it. The literal framing of the film, beginning and ending with Ford inviting us into 1860's America, and then closing the door on it. It looks great, and there are a few other great shots, mostly set in Monument Valley, such as the silent confrontation with two groups of Indians riding alongside the initial search party or the final cavalry charge in Scar's camp.

Then we get do stuff I'm ambivalent about, ie Ethan. Great performance by John Wayne, who manages to find the humanity in a disgusting, hateful and bigoted character. The shred of "good" that makes him unable to go through with killing Debbie is present throughout the film, and that's to Wayne's credit. That doesn't mean I particularly enjoyed following him in his years-spanning journey to find Scar and Debbie. It's like the Odyssey, but with Achilles instead of Ulysses : not as pleasant an experience when you're actively rooting against the main character and cringing at everything he says. And sure, he does have an overall more sympathetic companion in Charlie, though that relationship is strangely stagnant throughout, considering they spend five years together at all time.

Maybe I could appreciate The Searchers more if it was solely about Ethan and Charlie's quest, but it spends too much time with many ancillary characters that are neither as interesting nor as well played. This is where I must agree with Sam about the acting style, which comes off as either stiff of over-the-top to my eyes. There are many attempts at humour that are failed at best, offensive at worst, and a romance that always feels like a afterthought, and ends up serving as comic relief too with the brawl between Martin and Charlie.
Also worth noting : it seems that for every gorgeous shot of Monument Valley, there's a campfire scene that looks like a 50's TV show more than a feature film.

Finally there's the issue of the racism that's portrayed. Obviously Ethan is racist, but that's clearly presented as a character flaw and we're clearly supposed to see him as a broken man driven by hate and revenge, that's the point. But characters like the Reverend/Captain are barely less bigoted than him and are consistently presented as voices of reason. What's more, there is that scene where Martin inadvertently ends up with a Native American wife (hilarious, right ?), and kicks her down the hill... which is played for laughs ! And this is coming from the younger, "progressive" character.

In the end, all of it adds up to a deeply flawed film with some redeeming elements. I know many consider it a masterpiece, so I'm curious to hear responses here, especially considering the non-John Wayne elements of the story.

4/10
« Last Edit: November 21, 2015, 05:23:23 PM by Teproc »

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #15 on: November 21, 2015, 05:50:09 PM »
Also, I got dibs on Odyssey comparisons over here, so you beware...
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Junior

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #16 on: November 21, 2015, 06:03:02 PM »
Pretty sure I get that title, at least until you write 15 pages on the Odyssey.

And I'll be back to defend The Searchers after I watch Spotlight.
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1SO

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #17 on: November 21, 2015, 06:57:43 PM »
Maybe I could appreciate The Searchers more if it was solely about Ethan and Charlie's quest, but it spends too much time with many ancillary characters that are neither as interesting nor as well played. This is where I must agree with Sam about the acting style, which comes off as either stiff of over-the-top to my eyes. There are many attempts at humour that are failed at best, offensive at worst, and a romance that always feels like a afterthought, and ends up serving as comic relief too with the brawl between Martin and Charlie.
Also worth noting : it seems that for every gorgeous shot of Monument Valley, there's a campfire scene that looks like a 50's TV show more than a feature film.

The film falls apart and then puts itself back together again. It's very indulgent, then suddenly tightly focused. Extremely well-made, and then we get a scene of a dead guy breathing rather obviously (I didn't look it up beforehand. I thought he was buried alive.) I try to forgive the glitch and then the very scene ends where the actors break the prop stone. It's an Ed Wood move. The sets are beautifully lit, but it's like half the film was shot in the greatest outdoor location ever and the other half was shot at Disneyland. I wish I liked it more, but Liberty Valance gets right everything this film gets wrong and is just as John Ford and John Wayne about it. (To a lesser extent, so is My Darling Clementine.)

Because I don't like The Searchers, I thought for a long time that I didn't like John Ford. You hit on two of my problems. I've watched The Searchers a few times over the years - the Blu-Ray came free with my DVD - and I just don't think it's a good movie, nor is it a good example of why the Western is one of the greatest genres in cinema. I do love that final image, but the rest, like you say, is hampered by too much time with the side characters (something that gives most of John Ford's films their charm) and some gallingly bad technical decisions.

Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #18 on: November 21, 2015, 07:02:44 PM »
And I thought we were alike...

Funny how, despite you liking it a lot more than me, you don't buy Wayne's final decision whereas I do.

As for the Odyssey, maybe the "surprise Indian wife" is supposed to be Calypso ?

@1SO : I read your write-up in the John Ford thread just after writing this, obviously I agree with a lot of it, you especially expressed the technical concerns much better than I did. Glad to learn I can still like John Ford, because I have two coming up.  ;D

Sandy

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #19 on: November 21, 2015, 07:51:51 PM »
I'm afraid, I can't be of much help with the non-John Wayne aspects of the film, Teproc (except for the vistas and the opening and closing shots, the music, Ward Bond...haha! maybe I could be of help after all!).

It's John Wayne's brokenness that is the film to me.

What's going on with John Wayne's character? He has so many layers that I can't get to them all... 

Nothing is spelled out with him, but his determination and unhinged moments leave me speculating a great deal. What a rich, wounded, indomitable character is Ethan Edwards.

I'll tag on this, even though it's half because of John Wayne too. :)

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The beginning and ending scenes of this movie are imprinted in my soul. The wind blowing the dresses and his signature walk. The Western genre's charm captured in two beautifully framed snapshots.
"Don't be shy. You learn to fly and see the sun when day is done. If only you see."

 

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