powerful profile in conviction, edited to show how High Noon's plot came to mirror its screenwriter Carl Foreman's showdown with McCarthyism
Once the drama inherent in screenwriter Carl Foreman's story moves from an intro to his career beginnings and what he put on the page into what he was obliged to maneuver personally and professionally in the shark-infested waters of McCarthyism, leading to his HUAC summons, his resilient defiance of pressures to capitulate, and then exile to London as the only alternative to prison, just for refusing to "name names," this documentary takes on a riveting power of an all-too-relevant tale of free speech, civil liberties, and coercive intrigue in the name of pseudo-patriotism and feels like fresh insight despite the many looks into the blacklist era in both docu and drama over recent decades. The freshness derives from the convergence of: first-person narration (voiceover of a long 1952 letter in which Foreman had recounted all the behind-the-scenes plot lines and subterfuges during the making of High Noon); intriguing editing that skillfully juxtaposes the off-screen tale with scenes from High Noon bearing the marks of his ongoing personal fight for honor amid the contemporaneous U.S. political intimidations and conformist messages (where betrayal and abandonment of friends and commitments became expedient) which had descended of him and found their way consciously into his writing of High Noon as allegory; and a range of interviews with key protagonists in Foreman's own story. (Neither Stanley Kramer nor John Wayne come out looking very good in their less-than-brave roles in this real-life story.) As much as I previously knew of this era and blacklisting's nightmare from a variety of sources, this didn't feel in the least 'redundant' but adds a rich, bittersweet chapter focusing on how one film and one screenwriter in particular were subjected to and epitomized an era of censorship, paranoia, and misguided patriotism ... Matters that echo again all too strongly in 2002. I do recommend this documentary as an ever-important lesson in our collective history. In addition, I dare say I'll never watch "High Noon" again without whole new layers of reverberation as to its making and its meaning.
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