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