Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 23, 2005 4:51 pm 
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George Clooney: Good Night, and Good Luck (USA 2005). 90 mi9nutes. Warnder Independent release. Shown at the New York Film Festiva, Lincoln Center, September 23, 2005.

Elegant and intelligent

In his amusing first film Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which was scripted by master of illusion Charlie Kaufman, George Clooney -- whose own dad is a long-time TV anchorman -- dramatized the fanciful autobiography of kooky Seventies game show host Chuck Barris. This time he films real events, focusing on the conflict between much respected ultra-solemn CBS TV commentator and veteran newsman Edward R. Murrow and the dark prince of early Fifties communist-scare witch-hunting, Senator Joseph McCarthy. In the film, Murrow defends navy pilot Lt. Milo Radulovich, who's been kicked out as a security threat without being told the charges, and the pilot is reinstated. McCarthy, seen here only on actual vintage TV footage, accuses Murrow of being a communist sympathiser and Murrow rebuts. McCarthy is subsequently sued by the army and censored by the Senate so again Murrow has won the battle; but he loses the war, because CBS, then headed by the regal William S. Paley, soon phases Murrow out. The film looks very elegant with its rich black and white (blending with archival footage for McCarthy) heavily weighted to close-ups interspersed with jazz song interludes sung onscreen by Dianne Reeves. The cast is led by an appropriately buttoned-down and chain-smoking David Strathairn as Murrow, with the director himself as Murrow's producer and right-hand man, Fred W. Friendly. The period atmosphere is spot-on. The overall effect is dry and a little self-important, and the result is a rather limited picture of the red-baiting period for viewers unacquainted with the overall history, but this is nonetheless one of the most intelligent and politically serious American pictures of recent years. Clooney's an amazing fellow, handsome, urbane, and witty, he's got brains and taste and commitment. There's hope in such a man's being as well placed as Clooney is, and promise in his future collaboration with Steven Soderbergh in their new joint production company, Section Eight.

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