I don’t know what I was doing when this Matt Zoller Seitz video essay about Elia Kazan ‘s On The Waterfront went up almost a month ago. The more-or-less conventional view is that the story of Terry Malloy vs. Johnny Friendly is “a rat’s fantasy” or “a stoolie’s defense.” Seitz argues otherwise, or at least that a fairer, more perceptive reading is somewhere in the middle.

Kazan’s rep has long been tarnished by his cooperation with the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952 by agreeing to confirm names of Hollywood professionals who had named by others as having once had Communist affiliations. Seitz, however, says he agreed to “name names,” which isn’t quite the same thing and is therefore, to my knowledge, not precisely true.