COMMEMORATING 30 YEARS OF TFF

06/17/2020

Point of Order, released in 1964 and restored by UCLA with the help of The Film Foundation, is a 97-minute distillation of 188 hours of the Senate Army-McCarthy Hearings, which were nationally televised from April to June of 1954. The film began as an idea in the head of Dan Talbot, the proprietor and programmer of the New Yorker Theater and later the founder of New Yorker Films. Dan had been mesmerized by the original broadcasts and wondered about the possibility of running kinescopes of the hearings at the New Yorker and charging a dollar an hour. He brought up the idea with his friend Emile de Antonio and they decided to make a film. Through a process of trial and error and the help of a young editor named Robert Duncan, they created a documentary without commentary, whose force—the film has the relentless momentum of Full Metal Jacket or There Will Be Blood—and considerable dramatic tension emerge from a grounding in character, body language, and emotional conflict. In other words, the filmmakers looked at the footage, they saw the drama, and they extracted it. And they created a dynamically political film, a clarifying vision of the politics of one historical moment—McCarthy’s populism, fueled by the craven Roy Cohn, coming head to head with the liberalism of Boston lawyer Joseph Welch and Missouri Senator Stuart Symington. It’s the same drama that has played out, in different forms and with different characters, over and over again in this country since the end of World War II—the latest version is raging at this very moment. Point of Order is a riveting film, and it is essential viewing. I look forward to the day when it will serve not as a reminder of an earlier iteration of a conflict that we keep reliving, but as a document of a time gone by.

- Kent Jones

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