Cooper/Bridges Fight

Cooper/Bridges Fight
16mm, b&w, optical sound, 3 minutes, 2002

The anxieties and frustrations of McCarthy-era Hollywood are integrated into this reconstruction from the highly politicized Western High Noon. The struggle between a sheriff & his deputy becomes one with the film’s emulsion as cold war tensions are integrated into the scene’s frenzy. Considered an Un-American film by the House of Un-American Activities Committee; High Noon’s writer and director was blacklisted in the 1950s for alleged Communist sympathies.

“They punish each other mercilessly, nothing barred. The horses, becoming nervous, rear and whine in their stalls…” – from High Noon, original script by Carl Foreman

This movie replays an excised moment from the canonical Western High Noon. Gary Cooper stars as the sheriff who is shunned by the very townspeople he tries to help. Lloyd Bridges plays his deputy, part of the ebb tide that withdraws from Cooper even as the killers he jailed to keep the town safe are on their way back for revenge. So the Cooper and Bridges fight isn’t exactly two sides of a question, more like two sides of one side.

Cooper is blindsided by his deputy, moments of his fall are replayed in slow motion and reverse motion. The artist’s bruised emulsion lends a visceral touch, the image itself looks like it’s flying apart under the force of their blows. Cooper rallies from the sucker punch, the two them roll along the floor in a gesture that might be love. Moments of the fight are rephotographed close-up, the picture stretched and squeezed, rapidly cut, and in the end the emulsion shatters. The fight is over, waiting to be rethreaded and replayed, over and over. [Mike Hoolboom, 2007]