Friday Film (85)

I wasn’t planning to write more about what happens — and doesn’t happen — in that musically dubious film classic High Noon; but having found myself thinking about it on several occasions during the last week, I have decided to devote some additional space to it and its composer. (If you missed last Friday’s posting, you’ll find it here.)

First of all, I want to say that, while a score so grotesquely over-unified both in itself and with regard to the film’s opening ‘title song’ provokes in me a sense of aesthetic horror akin to what would be a rugby fan’s reaction to a player who picked up the ball at the start of a game and never, ever put it down again, there are respects in which the film — and even its music — seem to me to deserve genuine praise.

For a start, there’s the fact that the story itself is relatively grown-up for a ‘small town western’ of the early post-war years: the town’s Marshal, discovering that a murderer he helped to jail is coming back with a gang to kill him, turns to the townsfolk for assistance — and finds that literally everyone he asks has something else they’d rather do. The resulting situation — with the Marshal completely alone in the face of an approaching menace — results in several parts of the film lacking all dialogue. Myself, I can’t avoid the thought that this placed a burden on composer Dimitri Tiomkin that, in the event, he was not able to bear (at least, not in the inevitable ‘rushed-to-death’ circumstances of industrial film-score preparation); but there are places where the direction and cinematography are, to a large extent, able to compensate. The high-angle ‘still’ at the top of this posting, for example, comes from a rising crane shot whose function is to establish the Marshal’s isolation — as can be glimpsed at the start of the original cinematic trailer… Continue reading

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