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This is a decent but completely unremarkable retrospective of Clint
Eastwood movies -- at least of his work at Warner Brothers. It's told
in the form of clips from his appearance in WB products, ranging in age
from an early appearance of the TV show MAVERICK on through last year's
Despite a graceful narration from frequent collaborator Morgan Freeman, however, it is little more than a collection of clips and interviews with Eastwood in which he says pretty much what he has always said: that he makes movies he likes to see.
His career has thus been a treat for those of us who like middle-brow movies, movies with strong plots that tell stories about people whom he makes us care about -- despite occasionally being just the sort of people who think we shouldn't sympathize with. So an occasional puff piece like this is a welcome time-waster.
Just caught the premiere of this on TCM. There have easily been better overviews of Eastwood's career (the 2000 American Masters documentary 'Out Of The Shadows' is an excellent example) and it's easy to tear apart Richard Schickel's often sloppy style. But just to focus on a technical/aesthetic aspect of this production - who the hell was in charge of actually assembling the clips from the films? Eastwood's filmography includes films produced in just about every aspect ratio from full-frame to scope - and it's a TOTAL crap-shoot here whether a scene from a film will be properly letter-boxed or miserably pan-and scanned - or something in-between! (sometimes in a montage using scenes from the same film!) There were scenes from DIRTY HARRY that were pan-and-scanned, slightly letter-boxed and in full letterbox (it's a scope film) while others like A PERFECT WORLD (also scope) were in total, horrendous pan-and-scan - ruining not only the composition of the shots - but the beauty and impact of the scenes shown. These are just two of numerous examples throughout this production. This kind of oversight was simply inexcusable - especially from a man (Schickel) who is entrusted with how contemporary audiences see Clint's cinematic legacy. Next time hire somebody (like me!) who knows and cares that the examples shown are presented and represented correctly! Amateurish hack work beyond belief!
Eastwood Factor, The (2010)
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
Ninety-minute documentary on the career of legend Clint Eastwood focuses in on his directorial work at Warner. As with most documentaries by Schickel, he lets the act himself tell the story so we get Eastwood going one-on-one with the camera and discussing his films, his way of shooting things and other bits of trivia including his golf game. This isn't the first time director Schickel has made a film on Eastwood but this one here is certainly the more detailed of the two. If one is looking for something to cover his entire career then you're not going to find it here but if you're looking for something covering his Warner years then you're not going to be disappointed. It goes without saying but films like UNFORGIVEN, MILLION DOLLAR BABY, MYSTIC RIVER and his WW2 double-feature are all covered but you can also hear Eastwood discuss these films on countless other releases. I think the best thing about this documentary is that we get to hear his discuss films like HONKEYTONK MAN, PALE RIDER, FIREFOX, WHITE HUNTER BLACK HEART and BRONCO BILLY. It's interesting hearing the director look back at some of his lesser known works and discuss why he made them and how he feels about them today. The documentary also covers some more interesting grounds including Eastwood taking us on a trip to some of his sets and how they look today. Another trip includes a costume warehouse where many of his most famous outfits remain including stuff from DIRTY HARRY, PALE RIDER and UNFORGIVEN. I thought the documentary did a good job at jumping back and forth through these films, although I'm sure someone is going to have a favorite film that doesn't get talked about as much as he would like. That's just a part of documentaries like this as they're not always going to cover the films you want covered but that just comes with the territory. For the most part this film hits all the right notes and will be a must see for fans of Eastwood.
And who's to blame for this? Why, CLINT EASTWOOD himself. And the
He comes across as a man who strains to be vaguely articulate, one who's had enormous success at the box office with a string of violent films for decades now but has little to say about them except that he makes the kind of film he likes to watch. A simple philosophy. It's like a writer saying he writes the kind of stuff he himself would like to read. Okay. But that's the only perspective we get.
Clint's off screen persona is strikingly similar to that of the equally soft-spoken and elusive Henry Fonda. He's a mild-mannered man who looks today as harmless as the guy behind the counter at the local pharmacy, totally unlike the sort of action-oriented figures he plays on the screen with such authority and presence. It's as though all those action years have sucked the energy right out of him.
Fortunately, he grew up watching a lot of the old James Cagney/Humphrey Bogart films at Warner Brothrs, a studio where he himself has spent a lot of time over the past few decades churning out one macho action flick after another with little pause between. Occasionally he delved into deeper stuff with films like MILLION DOLLAR BABY, but his fans are really loyal because he gives them the kind of mindless action features they can all fantasize about. Good guys bring the bad guys down.
But don't expect anything deep from either Richard Schickel's script or Morgan Freeman's narration if you want insight into what makes the man tick. No mention of his turbulent personal life except that he lives in Carmel, California and likes to walk along the sand and beach-front areas in casual attire while pondering how much violence he can wreck in his next film to ensure it hits box office gold.
A simple-minded narration for a man whose life has got to be further explored to really give anyone a fair assessment of him, both as a filmmaker and a man. He's got to be more complex than he's presented here. The documentary is only remotely interesting when it concentrates on highlights from some of his most famous films. Even here, it fails to select the most impressive clips.
Summing up: An unremarkable view of a remarkable man.
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