The folks at kitchencabinet have some interesting but rather callous remarks on Shane and High Noon. My response:
I enjoy both films enormously -- and while your reductive comments are interesting and intelligent, they come across as rather horribly snotty. I mean, come on -- The Faerie Queen? That's not even a fair comparison. "Highly developed levels of meaning" aren't neccessarily what one yearns for in a Western film -- especially ones such as these, which draw so much of their strength from their leanness, their focus, and their single-mindedness of purpose. If you want an ambiguous Western, maybe you should have watched a Sam Peckinpah film or a Monte Hellman film or one by Anthony Mann -- but don't blame Stevens and Zinnemen for not being them. What grips the viewer in Shane and High Noon is the starkness of the situations.
You say: "There's almost nothing else to do while watching it but think about more complicated situations and issues." I'm all for the critical assumption that one's own objections to a work of art will be experienced by all others, but both these films show this view has its limitations. It's fair to say that almost no one watching these films for the first time is going to be wondering about "more complicated situations and issues."
You state that "Both deal with the battle in western towns for law and order but neither profits from the greater dramatic range that this setting makes available" -- I find the opposite to be true. Both films, especially Shane. employ landscape for dramatic purposes; I am thinking in particular of the low-angle shots of Ladd as he rides to the showdown with Jack Palance, and the ending as well -- where he is silhouetted against the sky.