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Clint Eastwood is THE MAN

May 31, 2011
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.
 
THE MAN
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.
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7 Comments
  1. A magnificently written tribute to a giant of world cinema. Hats off to you for writing such an evocative tribute!

  2. I don't know what to tell you. I am just not turned on. I wasn't around when he was THE MAN on screen. Maybe it's a generation thing. Maybe it's a girl thing.

  3. In my opinion Clint Eastwood brings a rugged reality to his roles. His portrayal of Harry Callahan was, I believe, how every Policeman would like to be able to do his job, without red tape and the limitations of bureaucracy.Eastwood's role as the man with no name was again more indicative of the life of a gunman in that era of history. They were loners who relied on no one and had compassion for even fewer.In my mind he is the biggest acting / directing talent out there today. His filmography stands alone on its own merits as the work of a true star.Thanks

  4. I've liked every movie Clint Eastwood has acted in and I think I've seen them all – at 67 I'm closer to his age than yours :). He's progressed considerably in acting quality since Rawhide, which I suspect he got for his very good looks. (I remember being very much aware of his youthful handsomeness every program :)The latter movies for which he produced and directed as well as acted are among his best in my mind – he is a real artist/craftsman. He doesn't simply settle. There are not enough of these type people in any field, let alone entertainment.Many many more years to Clint Eastwood, to maximize his Lifetime Happiness!

  5. For me, he has grown as a director and made some of his best work later in life. Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino are sensational movies.

    Great tribute to the Hollywood legend!

  6. A Solid article as always by Ratnakar again! I haven’t yet watched a few of the movies mentioned in this article, but surely now I’m truly fired up to watch them now…

  7. “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.”

    That was Lee Van Cleef. 😉

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