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Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Happy Birthday Clint Eastwood!

May the 31st was Clint Eastwood's birthday.
I won't be doing a post for every star's birthday, but Eastwood has had quite an influence on me and I thought it would be a fitting tribute to his extraordinary career that has spanned about 6 decades.
He is a director and actor I have long admired so I decided to watch one of his films to celebrate his 81st.
I chose A Perfect World as it is one I had in my collection but had not had the chance to see yet.
Here are a few of my thoughts on it.

A Perfect World tells the story of an escaped convict played by Kevin Costner, who takes a young boy hostage and eventually strikes up a friendship with his while they are on the run from the law, headed by Chief Red played by Clint Eastwood.
It was rather manipulative, contrived at times and the script had definite room for improvement. But I liked it.
It was simple and far from being a great film. But I though it had some strong elements that were enough to keep me watching and to ultimately make me like it.

It is one of Eastwood's less known films, but it did receive many positive reviews from critics, most notably Roger Ebert who gave the film 4 stars. I may not be as enthusiastic as Ebert, but I still noticed many elements of interest in this film. Especially the whole father/son theme, which ran throughout the film and in many different forms. But in a way this theme is one of the most prominent of the film, I'd even go so far as to say this film is more of a film exploring the relationship's between fathers and sons, or between children and adults in general, than it is a typical criminal on the run film.

All in all it's a well made film with some fine performances from Laura Dern and Kevin Costner, but it does get overindulgent with the sentimentality a bit, which is something Eastwood has a tendency to do. Still, it remains a very good film and easily one of Eastwood's better directional efforts.

Anyway, Clint Eastwood is in my opinion one of Cinema's most impressive figures. He was already an icon in the 60's but his fame has never stopped growing since then, after he had portrayed The Man With No Name.
With this character and Dirty Harry, he created two of cinema most recognisable characters, yet I've never really thought of him as a great actor. he certainly had the screen presence, with his impressive stature and gravelly voice. But he always came off as a bit wooden, in certain cases that worked such as The Man With No Name, the role is a particularly demanding one, all he needs to do is be cool, and he does that admirably.

But their are a few exceptions to this, over the course of his career he has given a couple of performances that really impressed me, even if they aren't his most recognisable.
These would be in Gran Torino, a film he also directed and which made near the top of my favourites of 2008. I thought it was a very moving film, excellently filmed and Eastwood gave what might be his most interestign performance. I think his work on Gran Torino is general is a high point in his career.
Another performance that impressed me is his portrayal of famed director John Huston, who he is a great admirer of, in the film he also directed, White Hunter Black Heart.
His performance in that film really caught me off guard, I had never thought that he would be such a great choice to play the legendary director.He does it admirably and avoids presenting the character in an almost mythical light, instead showing different sides to his character, some of which are unpleasant. A really good performance.

Despite this iconic status of his, it was only after he directed Bird in 1988, and was nominated for a Palm D'Or at Cannes, that people started taking him very seriously as an artist. In fact he could be the most successful example of actor turned director.
Bird is a terrific film, slightly messy perhaps but the sheer passion Eastwood put into it is evident in every frame. Since then he has had his ups (Mystic River, Letters From Iwo Jima) and his downs (Space Cowboys) but he has nonetheless built a reputation as reliable director and has achieved success even though at such an advanced age. Over the years he has won over 100 various awards including 4 Oscars, and has been nominated for an additional 75. Truly an inspiration.

He might not be the best director around, as his style is very classical, reminiscent of an older time and avoids being flashy, and he certainly isn't the best actor around either. But I think he is one of Cinema's greats and I for one will be very sad when his time comes to die. But as he has said that is he ever stops making films he will die, that might mean that if he never stops making films he'll live forever!
I'm only joking of course, but one thing that will live forever is his legacy. The characters he has portrayed and the films he has directed will still remain and will be fondly remembered. I for one will always have a soft spot for his work, as The Good The Bad and The Ugly was one of the first films I remember being completely transfixed by.

His next film will be a biopic of J.Edgar Hoover, entitled Hoover and due for release this year. I really look forward to it, and I hope it will be the film to finally win Di Caprio a Best Actor Oscar, he certainly deserves it and Eastwood has a history of directing actors in award winning roles.

What are your thoughts on A Perfect World, and on Eastwood's work in general. A fan ? or perhaps a hater ? Feel free to comment below!

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