Guilty By Suspicion

Robert De Niro stars as a film director during the Hollywood blacklist of the early 50s who refuses to testify against his friends before the House Un-American Activities Committee, thereby bringing his own career to a halt, in a film written and directed by Irwin Winkler (the producer of Rocky, Raging Bull, Round Midnight, and GoodFellas, among other films). As a screenwriting and directing debut, this picture is not especially auspicious, and De Niro’s performance, while charming, remains fairly lightweight. This picture was originally developed by screenwriter Abraham Polonsky and director Bertrand Tavernier before Winkler, who was set to produce it, decided to sign on as director and writer instead, and one regrets Winkler’s softening of the material, which implies that the blacklist was awful mainly because apolitical liberals lost their careers; the radical filmmakers who were forced into silence and/or exile are given no voice at all. But if one accepts these limitations, along with some liberties taken with period details, the subject remains gripping and fascinatingnot really much of an improvement on The Front (which dealt with the TV blacklist, and had the benefits of Zero Mostel), but compelling and watchable all the same. With Annette Bening, George Wendt, Patricia Wettig, Sam Wanamaker, Martin Scorsese (as another blacklisted director), Ben Piazza, and Adam Baldwin. Arnon Milchan (Brazil, Once Upon a Time in America) produced. (JR)

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