Thursday, February 26, 2009

"High Noon" (1952) - Movie Review

“High Noon” is unlike any western. It builds up the suspense and in the pursuit of arriving it depicts a failure of a town willing to stand up for anything. It begins heightening hopes of seeing a showdown fight continuing for very many hours between the good and evil. It is because when the film begins at somewhere around late morning aiming to the title time for a stand in battle between the retired Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) and a released criminal he put down Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald). Miller is arriving at the noon train to the town of Haydeville. Instead of gun play we see the lone Marshal just married to Amy Kane (Grace Kelly) on his way out of the town coming back for something inside him adamant enough to hold up his life for and his desperate attempts to line up some soldiers.

Westerns as much as it is boasting about the hard men with rugged yet smooth shaven faces runs more empathetic and sentimental than many would see it as so. Here Will Kane is at the end of his career and wonders to have pleasant time in his newly married life is drawn back in to the town. He has managed to clean the streets mainly by putting away the worst criminal five years back, Frank Miller. The clan of Miller parades through the town towards the train station wherein the news of the Miller’s arrival travels in waves. Minutes after his wedding, Kane is pushed away fast by his friends and townspeople to vacate the place after hearing the news. Kane leaves with Amy but he cannot as something in him torments. Amy leaves him towards the train station and he in the line of righteousness roams around the town for men to stand by him and fight this thing over when Miller arrives.

As Kane is met with failure after failure in getting his men, people have already began to assume his death. Every one want him out, some for Kane’s concern while many to avoid the hassle coming out of this bloody war. Kane is stubborn. He is shocked by the people in town for whom he has served faithfully and dangerously to be shunned and even blamed for the upcoming vengeance trail. One by one whom Kane meets disappoint him. He comes close to get away but he is gone too far to go back. He stays.

“High Noon” is a statement. A very strong political statement which raised controversies into the era of HUAC (House Committee on Un-American Activities). It is about a man questioning his faith on law and people. But it is not about law as the film walks on the shadow of Will Kane. It is about one man’s relentless righteousness. Is he stupid? May be. Most of the humans who stand on the stone of values and in a state of metaphysical elements inside them are considered so. While the reality defeats them and throws stones, they are drawn into the inner self of being who they are and taking pride in being so. While the world spits them at their face and stomps them on the ground in order to make an example of moving away from the system of staying off from troubles, they dust up and run right after their goal as if nothing happened. Such is Will Kane.

Gary Cooper presents a face fitting the man. He is old enough to retire but young enough to gun sling with wisdom. He comes magnetic and surrounded by the immense stature of his personality where he goes. He gets broken down but has a stance of pulling himself together for the fight he knows of losing. Even his hopes of building a team is to satisfy his preparation. He wants to cover bases with himself in order to die with precision and no regrets. Cooper underlines it but not overwrought it.

Written by Carl Foreman who got questioned by the HUAC, this film carries lot of cultural significance because of it. More than the times when debacle of freedom occurred under the hands of political stupidity, “High Noon” is a brave film towards that. It took the concept of strong men being posed in westerns as very many thought into cowardly people escaping into the posing woods of supposed smartness.

Look how much information it gives on the people speaking of the past and the present reflecting their state of mind without any facade. It happens in real time moving into the hot sun directly hitting the heads of our lead man to add one more enemy to fight for. When the tour to recruit deputies for his fight ends and when his past and present lovers pass through him. He lifts his head wistfully of course not smiling. We feel sorry for the poor guy from the bottom of our hearts. That makes “High Noon” a completely different Western film I have ever seen.

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