Clint Eastwood is THE MAN
If I had to define courage myself, I wouldn’t say it’s about shooting people. I’d say it’s the quality that stimulates people, that enables them to move ahead and look beyond themselves.-Clint Eastwood.
PS: First things first, this article is by no means a look at Clint Eastwood’s filmography, or an analysis of all the movies done by him.This is my personal take on a man whom i admire, the movies of his which touched me the most.
In his life, Clint Eastwood has been many things- an actor, a director, a Mayor, dabbling in Jazz and a fitness evangelist. But the impact Eastwood had on me personally, as a movie fan, was beyond what he did. It was something more, there are actors you like, actors you admire, and then there are actors well who just go beyond admiration. You can’t exactly describe the feeling, but these actors, can pull you into a movie, just on the basis of their name, and make you sit through it all. You are willing to sit through some real crappy stuff, just because of the man on the screen. He just has that kind of presence, which makes you say “Screw the screenplay, script, who cares about logical errors, just let me see this guy on screen, and maybe i will think about that later”. It is like being so deep in love with the girl next to you, that you don’t really care for her silly giggles, or that she is pretty much of an airhead. Some love affairs do not last long, the same traits which you found so endearing early on, begin to look juvenile and childish later. But there are some long lasting love affairs, that age well with time, and primarily, because the object of your affection, does not behave like a giddy teen, and matures with time.
A good man always knows his limitations-Clint Eastwood
My adoration or fan boy love or whatever term you choose to give it, for Clint Eastwood, started off right as a kid. For most of us kids, he was “The Man”, but more than anything else, he was the one who defined “cool” , in fact would say, he was the perfect epitome of the “Uber Cool” man. I could never imagine Clint Eastwood being Moses or William Wallace, the larger than life figures exhorting their followers. I could never imagine him being a Hamlet or Othello, reciting the long monologues, showing the intense angst needed. Nor could i imagine him doing an impassioned court room speech a la Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird. But he was the man i aspired to be, or at least fantasized about. The lone man, all by himself, silent, drifting about, and coolly shooting down the bad guys. My first movie of Clint Eastwood was not the Good,The Bad and the Ugly, it was the 60′s WWII pulp adventure movie, Where Eagles Dare, to date one of my favorites. Richard Burton had the more dramatic parts, but it was Clint Eastwood who took all the seetis and taalis from the audience, yours truly included. Gunning down scores of Nazis, without batting a single eyelid, remorselessly, rigging up the entire castle with explosives, and all the while, appearing so calm and unruffled. And the best scene of all, a Nazi guard asks him for his ID, he coolly picks up the gun from the brief case, and shots him. Clint Eastwood became a byword, a synonym for “Cool”, and then later on caught The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Again while Eli Wallach, had the more author backed role as Tuco “The Ugly” and in fact the best line in the movie(“When you shoot, shoot, don’t talk”), Clint again made an impact, in spite of the fact that he speaks very little. Cigar in mouth, the rough stubble, the scarf, the hat, he manages to convey everything just through a glance, or look. No better example than in the climax, when Eli Wallach cries out to be released, he turns back, just a glance, raises his gun, and for an eternity, just looks, pushing up the tension, and then..
|For A Few Dollars More|
I feel Sergio Leone’s style of movie making, was something that suited Clint Eastwood perfectly. Leone generally let’s his characters speak through their eyes, their expressions, and puts that against a backdrop of rousing music, long silences. In fact the characters in Leone’s movies do seem to take an eternity to act, but that is a technique he deliberately uses to push up the tension. Clint’s laid back, talk not much, willingness to get dirty fit in perfectly with Leone’s characterization. It can be seen in the Mexican shootout climax of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, where for close to 10-15 minutes, the 3 characters, do not speak a single dialog at all, the camera keeps flitting from one face to another, you see the contrasting expressions, Eli Wallach all nervous, fidgeting, Lee Van Cleef hard and cruel, and finally Eastwood, calm, unruffled. And Ennio Morricone’s BGM just pushes up the tension levels one notch higher. The same approach can also be seen in the climax of For A Few Dollars More, Clint Eastwood again playing the Man with No Name, and Lee Van Cleef, as another bounty hunter, hunting down a bandit, for personal revenge. The climax again is vintage Leone, with both Lee Van Cleef, and the bandit El Indio( Gian Maria Volente), facing each other, for what seems to be an eternity, Morricone’s music rousing in the background. But just before the shootout, Clint Eastwood again, puts himself in the frame, when he hands over his revolver to Lee Van Cleef, and coolly steps back, saying “Now we start”, like a spectator watching a prize heavyweight championship bout. Again in the same movie, Eastwood has one of the best entrance scenes ever, when he walks up to the lodge door of a wanted outlaw, slips in the “Wanted Dead or Alive” poster that has the outlaw’s name on it, we don’t see anything, just the voice of the outlaw angered, who slips out of the window, and then Eastwood again tracking him down.
Clint Eastwood was unlike most of the other Western characters played by John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Burt Lancaster, more of a taciturn lone ranger, a man all by himself, not really caring for concepts like honor or duty, and if he is in the action, it is either for personal revenge or his own personal benefit. Interestingly in both The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and For a Few Dollars More( have not seen A Fistful of Dollars), Eastwood is more of the supporting character. In the The Good, The Bad and The Ugly it is Eli Wallach who is obsessed with finding the money, Eastwood’s character is more of a reluctant bystander, dragged into it, he is otherwise quite happy bounty hunting, sharing the spoils. Again in For a Few Dollars More, the story revolves more around Lee Van Cleef, and his quest for revenge, with Eastwood again doing the support act, the man in the background, helping Van Cleef, seek his revenge.
The lone ranger person was carried over into his next couple of Westerns, notably Hang Em High, which immediately followed the Dollars trilogy, and his first home production. Clint Eastwood is Jed Cooper, a cattle rancher, who swears revenge on the 12 men who had lynched him earlier, on a false charge of theft. The film is primarily about his quest for revenge, and his conflict with Judge Fenton( Pat Hingle), who does not want him to become a vigilante. Essentially a revenge movie, it does delve into the issues of private and public justice, about the perils of vigilantism, and add to that some really gruesome action scenes. Though Clint by now was no longer with Leone, the elements of the Sphagetti Westerns did carry over, the violence, the close ups, the long pauses, though by now Clint had got a name, and he got to romance the heroine.
|The Outlaw Josey Wales|
However to me the best of the post-Dollars trilogy for me was The Outlaw Josey Wales, a highly under rated Western, IMO, and one of Clint’s best directorial efforts. Clint again retains most of the elements of the Sphagetti Westerns, that had made him famous, the long shots, the silences, the crisp dialogue, to come up with a classic. Eastwood again reprising his loner on a revenge mission persona, this time his target being a group of Jayhawkers who have raped, killed his wife and burnt down his farm. This i guess was one of the few Westerns of that time, which showed native Indians in a positive light, and i feel in a way, this movie laid down the path for more revisionist Westerns like Dances with Wolves and Unforgiven later on. Another great Western directed by Clint was High Plains Drifter, where Clint again reprises the Stranger with No Name character, this time protecting a town against rogue gunfighters. Again Clint’s intro, being the best part, riding into the town, in typical lone ranger fashion, being stalked by three local guys, who attack him in the barber shop, and the best part, one of the bullies, swivels him around, and bang. The movie has again a great ending, pretty much a twist, which i would not rather not reveal out. I have not seen Pale Rider though, so can’t really comment on it.
I know what you’re thinking — “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But, being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?- Dirty Harry
In 1970, Clint Eastwood carried over his gun slinger image from the Wild West to the more urban surroundings of San Francisco. Harry Callahan aka Dirty Harry, was the typical Bad Cop, whom most of us love to adore. The man who cares a damn for his seniors, is a law unto himself, does not bother about legal niceties and rules, and who believes criminals are the scum to be dealt with. He does not mind breaking rules, as long as it helps to catch the crooks. Dirty Harry, was one of the best in the vigilante cop genre stories, and unlike his earlier movies, where Eastwood remained silent most of the time, here he gets to mouth some real kick ass dialogs. One of the best scenes in the movie is his confrontation with the City’s Mayor, when discussing on how to catch the serial killer Scorpio, who has been terrorizing the city. As he tells him “when an adult male is chasing a female with intent to commit rape, I shoot the bastard; that’s my policy”. Again watch out for the final confrontation in the stadium, sadistic, brutal, ruthless.
While the following 2 sequels of Dirty Harry( Magnum Force, Enforcer) were nothing too great, my other favorite in the series would be the 3rd part, Sudden Impact, directed by Eastwood himself. This was the darkest and most violent of the series, Harry Callahan, this time having to deal with an avenging angel, Jennifer Spencer( Sandra Locke), who is out to get even with the men who had gang raped her and her sister. The culprit Harry is tracking in the movie, is some one a mirror image of himself, a vigilante, seeking to take her own personal revenge. Or in more simpler terms, a vigilante hunting for another vigilante. Of all the movies in the series, this has to be the most unsettling one, especially the repeated flashbacks of the rape, Jennifer and her sister had, the psychotic, loony tune bad guys, and one rather gruesome scene, where one of the bad guys falls on a unicorn statue in a carousel. The best Eastwood moment is the part, where he dares a crook to shoot a hostage with the now immortal line “Go ahead, make my day”. It was the Man with No Name series and Harry Callahan, that made me a life long fan of Clint Eastwood, the cool, quick thinking, no nonsense action hero, who was my icon.
I ain’t like that no more. I ain’t the same, Ned. Claudia, she straightened me up, cleared me of drinkin’ whiskey and all. Just ’cause we’re goin’ on this killing, that don’t mean I’m gonna go back to bein’ the way I was. I just need the money, get a new start for them youngsters.- Unforgiven.
It was quite ironical though, that after building up the cool, taciturn, gun-slinger image, the mysterious loner, who talks more than he shoots, Clint should go around and parody that same image in The Unforgiven. I mean for almost 2 decades in your career, you built up this image of the man who was the best shooter in the business, ruthless in revenge, quite often cold and unfeeling, and now you just go around dismantling it. Why? To be honest i never liked The Unforgiven when i saw it first time, this was not the Clint Eastwood i had idolized, this certainly was not the cool, unflappable, gun slinger, who rarely missed a shot. What i got to see was an old, worn out veteran, who could not even shoot straight. Will Munny( Clint Eastwood) is the former aging gunfighter, who has been asked by a young upstart to help him in capturing two wanted outlaws. Will Munny is a character, who goes completely against Eastwood’s gun slinger persona, he falls sick, gets kicked around, he however comes through in the superbly shot climax scene, in heavy rain, dim lights.
But more than his Dirty Harry and Man with No Name persona, what makes me admire Clint Eastwood is his track record as a director. The lone ranger, gun slinger persona, is what made me admire him as a star, an icon to look up to, something for the heart purely. But it is his record as a director, that is something to die for. This man has been directing movies from the 70′s onwards, which is close to 3 decades, and in every decade he has held on his own. Be it the brat pack brigade of Coppola, Spielberg, Scorseseduring the 70′s, the indie gang of Tarantino, Rodriguez, Gus Van Sant in the 90′s or the Soderbergh-Nolan-Arronofsky in the last decade, he has maintained his own niche, his own space, not really competing with any of them, more with himself. Like Sidney Lumet, Eastwood is in his own league, some one you can’t really compare to other directors. And as a director, he has not been restricted to a specific genre. In his 3 decades as a director, his movies have covered genres ranging from Westerns( Unforgiven, Outlaw Josey Wales) to serious crime dramas( Mystic River) to war epics( Letters from Iwo Jima, Flags of our Fathers) to sporting dramas( Million Dollar Baby, Invictus) to romance( Bridges of Madison County) to comedy( Space Cowboys), this is one director, who has covered every genre of his own.
It is not just his unyielding passion to churn out one great movie after another, but also the way he keeps reinventing himself with every movie. He goes and parodies his own cowboy gun slinger image in The Unforgiven. And then for some one who made fame, out killing Nazis by the dozen in Where Eagles Dare and Kelly’s Heroes, he goes around and gives a rather cynical take on the War in his double Iwo Jima feature, Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. Flags of our Fathers takes a look at one of history’s most iconic photographs, the men raising the US flag on Iwo Jima during World War II. But while celebrating the heroism of the ordinary soldiers in the War, Eastwood’s movie does not spare the administration and the business lobby, who leave no stone unturned in exploiting the tragedy for their own selfish purposes. But even more brilliant than Flags was Letters from Iwo Jima, after a long time, one gets to see a Hollywood war movie, where the other side is not made to look like clownish buffons. It is a movie, that touches, moves, and makes you see that the enemy is as much human as we are, as it looks at the resolute stand of the Japanese, in defending the island. For me these 2 war movies were significant, as not too often, movies have come out, where two different perspectives of the same event were present.
My daughter was murdered. They put a gun to her. As we stand here, she’s on an autopsy slab getting cut open by scalpels and chest spreaders, and you’re talking to me about domestic fucking responsibility? Good to see you, Theo.-Mystic River
It is again this clash of perspectives, that make Mystic River the great movie that it is.Eastwood’s grim, dark and brooding crime drama, revolves around 3 childhood friends, Jimmy, Sean and Dave, whose worlds come into conflict with each other. To me one of Eastwood’s best works ever, as he tackles a complex, multi layered tale, where none of the characters seem to be what they are. Each of these men, have their own personal demons, Jimmy an ex con having to face the death of his daughter, Dave a victim of child abuse, and Sean, now a cop, but dealing with a failed marriage. When their own lives collide, they also have to confront themselves. Moody, atmospheric, Mystic River to me was a fascinating mix of morality play, character study and crime drama. And add to that, solid performances by Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laura Linney and Lawrence Fishburne.
As a kid i adored him as a star, some one to be copied and imitated, growing up i admired him both as an actor and director, and now i am entering 40 and Client will be turning 81 soon. I can only give a salute to the man, who has grown, re invented himself, and has been able to come up with consistently great cinema. Not too often, is it possible for a person to satisfy both the entertainment seeker as well as the connoisseur, this Man, has done it, and is right now in his own league, incomparable. Yes Clint Eastwood is THE MAN.