Shades of Black


TV Movie 2006

The ghostly mansion, the otherworldly servants scurrying to the bedside of the dying old tyrant cut off from all family and friends. The old man whispers a single word that no one understands. Rosebud.

That's how Citizen Kane begins, and also how it ends some two and a half hours later.

Now imagine Conrad Black locked up in his massive Toronto mansion, gates barred and blinds drawn. He's in the midst of the fight of his life over Hollinger, facing the possibility of jail time. Worse yet, the loss of face and status and influence that he fought all his life to attain.

But instead of planning a clever coup d'etat or marshalling his legal army we find Black drifting. As if he's lost the will to battle the mere mortals who heckle from the sidelines, Black keeps his mind on loftier issues. His continuing work on the life of FDR, his own place in history and the dark memories of his family and failed first marriage.

Meanwhile, his wife, Barbara Amiel drifts around the rooms like Lady MacBeth, trying to rally Black's army of solicitors and colleagues, worrying all the while that she's losing the one thing she cares most about.

"Shades of Black" will explore the seminal moments in Black's already crowded life story. His stormy and odd relationship with his troubled father, the rise of his publishing empire, his political and corporate battles, his doomed first marriage and the epic love affair with Amiel. Everything about Conrad Black is larger than life and "Shades of Black" intends to capture the panache and style of a man who believed absolutely in his place in history. He sees himself like FDR, a man born for greatness, whose father would have accepted nothing less. A man who for all his personal strength and courage allowed himself in the end to be consumed and dominated by a woman.

Black finds in Amiel the only woman in the world who could possibly understand him. And once he's found her, how could he ever live without her? Out of all that opulence and greed and self-interest grows a real affection. For all the screaming and competition and excess of every kind, there is a subtle grace note as we watch her stand beside her husband, slashing at the hounds who have treed them.

In some ways, "Shades of Black" is a celebration of greed and self-interest and intellectual rigour -- how great things are done when ego is unfettered in a great man. As Black said himself, greed is underrated.

Finally, however, it is the dark side that wins out. The corruption, the blind arrogance of wealth and power, the envious mob storming the gates at the first smell of blood. As always, the gods exact their price for hubris.

Lastly, "Shades of Black" is the story of an epic love affair, a powerful man consumed by a woman who, after she has taken everything she can from him, discovers that she loves him.