Saturday, June 20, 2009
In Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood first flexed his auteur muscle, becoming more than an flinty movie actor and competent director. What was most interesting about the film for me was its deconstruction of old Western movie tropes, and its clever usage of Eastwood's age and iconic persona to criticize the white hat vs. black hat theme of an entire genre of American moviemaking.
Now, with Gran Torino, Clint has deconstructed his other cinematic persona, the tough urban Dirty Harry type, the man who "fixes things," who gets the job done, the rough-and-tumble no bullshit American he-man, with his tool-laden workshop, his polished classic muscle car, his dog, his guns, and his small-minded racist worldview.
Eastwood is a wise film-maker, and he learned a lot making A Perfect World after Unforgiven. That film was bloated in length, at times awkwardly acted, and a bit too preachy. Gran Torino is none of those things. It's funny, it's gritty, it's sad, and Eastwood again uses his own iconic status to deconstruct and critique not only the roles which made him famous, but also the society which gobbled up such fare, and which barely exists 30 years later.
Gran Torino is nowhere near the level of artistry of Eastwood's Changeling, also made last year. But it is a moving film and Clint is surprisingly agile in front of and behind the lens. I don't know how many more films you have left in you, Clint--but thanks for these two. Keep making them.In fact, I have a recommendation: Please, Mr. Eastwood, make a film which critiques and deconstructs those movies where you drove around with an orangatang fighting inept bikers.