Thursday, February 15, 2007

High Noon

(Movie Review)

This summer, when I was in love with the book “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, I recommended it to Shoko during our weekly phone calls. She found a Japanese translation, got halfway through it, and then just opted to buy the DVD instead. (Actually to be fair to her, I think she did finish the book eventually as well.)

By the way, I thought the movie did a really good job of being faithful to the book. I’m not going to get into that here, because I’m busy enough on this blog as it is, without going into everything I’ve seen the past 6 months. But I’ll just say that movie is worth watching if you get a chance.

Anyway, since seeing the movie “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, Shoko has fallen in love with Gary Cooper. By the time of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” Gary Cooper was already showing his age, but as Shoko tactfully explained to me, “Men can have a few wrinkles and still be good looking. For example, you’ve developed a few lines around your eyes, but you still look cool.”

Now several Gary Cooper DVDs (over half of Shoko’s movie collection) adorn our apartment. As for me, like most Americans of my generation, prior to all this if you had said the name “Gary Cooper” to me, the only movie I could have named was “High Noon.” Which Shoko had never even heard of. So I decided this would be a great movie to watch together. Especially since I had heard it was an allegory about McCarthyism, and because it is famous as Bill Clinton’s favorite movie. (Not that I’m taking up Bill Clinton’s movie list anymore than Tarantino’s, but it does add to the legend of the film).

“High Noon” is one of those movies that is so much a part of American culture that even people who haven’t seen it are familiar with the plot, as I was even before I rented it. However as I watched this movie next to a Japanese person, I began to think about how distinctively American this movie is. The idea of a hero standing strong for his principles even as he is abandoned by everyone around him would probably never be made into a Japanese movie.

In short, I think this movie captures both the best and worst of the American ideal. The notion of standing up for what is right, even as a minority of one, is an idea that makes me proud to be an American. But the second implied message of the film, that everything can be solved with a big gun battle at the end, is perhaps indicative of the flawed thinking that got us into Vietnam and Iraq.

I wonder if this film wouldn’t have been stronger with a different ending. Does the fact that Gary Cooper emerges triumphantly give the message, “Stand up for what’s right, as long as you’re quick with a gun”? Would it have been better if the bad guys had won the fighting, to show the price you sometimes have to pay for sticking up for what’s right?

Also I think Cooper’s isolation would have been further emphasized if his wife hadn’t returned to him at the end. Then again, maybe that would have been flogging a dead horse. We got the idea of the film just fine, even as it was.

Gary Cooper does a great job in this film. A lesser actor might have given into the temptation of overacting, but its amazing how much Cooper is able to communicate with just his eyes. You feel everything his character is going through just by watching his face.

I’m not exactly what the point of some of the sub-plots of this film were, like the woman Helen Ramirez or the torments of Cooper’s deputy, other than just to help fill up the time. The infamous Grace Kelly also stars in this movie, which greatly excited Shoko, although I can’t say I’m a huge fan. I was more excited by Lon Chaney Junior, famous for "The Wolf-man" movies, who has a bit part as the older sheriff, but for some reason is credited as Lon Chaney (his father, also a famous actor), which confused me a bit.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
In reality, the scarcity of royals alluded to in the film "King Ralph" is not possible. There are currently 901 legitimate heirs to the British and other Commonwealth thrones. The first of those who do not reside in the UK is 60th in the real line of succession, and belongs to the Royal Family of Norway. Even if the fictional Wyndham dynasty had a different genealogy, there would still be many heirs who do not belong to the extended royal family present in the photographing tragedy.

Link of the Day
A few years ago I joined a yahoogroups forum dedicated to the discussion of Saint Just. (There are yahoo groups for everything.) That has unfortunately died out, but you can fulfill all your Saint Just needs here, at

1 comment:

Whisky Prajer said...

This is a movie that makes absolutely no sense. If the newlyweds had done the right thing and gone on their honeymoon, there'd have been no movie at all.