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extremely prejudiced justice to all manner of criminal scumbags in a variable series of films plummeting to the nadir of 1988‘s fifth instalment The Dead Pool. .
What’s interesting about Eastwood. though. is that he’s managed to use his continuing commercial viability to fund a more personal catalogue of films as actor and/or director. I Iis debut feature Play Misty For Me (making 1971 a busy year) has Clint as a jazz DJ menaced by a disturbed female fan. and holds up rather well beside the likes of FatalAttraction. while Breezy two years later. the first film in which Eastwood himselfdoesn‘t appear. was a gentle May to December romance between oldster William Holden and lithe hippy Kay Lenz.
Always most comfortable as an actor in the Western genre. Eastwood the director has been responsible for a very high percentage of the cinema‘s post — Leone achievements in the field. He gave an unsettling supernatural edge to both High Plains Drifter ( 1973) and 1985‘s Pale Rider ' demonstrated a softer. more ironic touch wih the comic fable (and noted 1980 box office failure) Bronco Billy. and showed masterly control over the expansive 1976 rousing renegade revenge saga The Outlaw Josey Wales. which for many remains his finest hour.
Also a definite contender for Clint‘s Best Pic is Bird. his long-cherished jazz biopic charting alto bebop giant Charlie Parker‘s genius and decay. whose dark uncompromised vision (well. okay so where was Miles?) was the toast of the Festival at both Cannes and Edinburgh two years ago.
After the unpredictable peaks and troughs. personal projects and hacked-out potboilers — quite a long way from Bird, for example. to the likes of Sudden Impact. a fact which seriously hampers any significant critical flag-waving — it‘s
a pleasure to report that White Hunter. Black Heart appears to be another Eastwood labour of love. Adapted from Peter Viertel‘s fictional chronicle of his experiences with director John Huston while preparing The African Queen on location in what’s now Zimbabwe. it‘s not so much an arid exercise in cinephile archaeology as an indulgently affectionate picture of the old-style filmmaker/adventurer at play. sleeves rolled up in Hemingwayesque struggle against the oncoming barrage of experience. Well. yes it‘s sorta macho tosh (that word Hemingway is always a danger sign). but in his quest to shoot the biggest elephant he can point his riﬂe at. he does learn to appreciate the majesty of the natural world. Yes folks, it’s the world’s first environmentally friendly Clint movie.
Actually, White Hunter, Black Heart boasts what’s probably his finest performance. for in doing an oblique take on Huston (he has the rolling intonation. though the speech is a bit faster), the big man is asked to (ahem) act. to step outside his usual heroic persona into another character who’s not the recognisable Clint Eastwood turn he usually does in his sleep these days (see The Dead Pool. 222). He‘s given literate dialogue, brings off a couple of setpiece tirades with some aplomb, and generally oozes presence to devastating effect. You really ought to see it.
Straight after the review screening of the film we were to be granted the only British press conference with the craggy one himself. and it has to be said that coming right from the auditorium Clint seems a good deal more charismatic on screen than he does in the ﬂesh. In person. it‘s as if he’s swallowed a bucketful ofdiffidence pills. He’s low-key. Charming. but when you look over the transcript you realise he‘s mastered the
superstar‘s art of dancing round the questions. We’ll spare you all the details. the plethora of dullard queries. ‘Did Clint really shoot the rapids?’ chirps one game airhead. Jeez. shooting rapids is Clint‘s hobby. yeah sure. Anyway. before this writer shoots into exasperation factor ten. it’s Salient Points Time. We place you. the reader. in the same room as the celebrity. but you don’t have to sit through all the boring bits. (i ) (flint doesn 't think he's typecast as a heroic ‘It’s just the way my career started out. but I’ve done less than heroic characters along the way. I‘ve played larger than life detectives. and I‘ve played a cop in Tightrope who‘s very insecure about himself and the pressure of his work. Both areas are fun to play. but too many heroes and I would’ve got caught up in self-imitation.’ (ii)(‘lint doesn 't like to look back ‘I don‘t watch the old films much. though once in a while I catch the odd glimpse. They were all fun for different reasons. Play Misty For Me was mv first one and that has a certain nostalgic effect. a The ()utlanosey Wales I liked making very much. Bronco Billy was a stretch out ofcharacter for me. and I liked the dreamer aspect ofhis character. ( iii)C lint thinks Bird is quite good actually “Perhaps I will look back some day in an autobiography. but at this point I have no real favourites amongst my films. I enjoyed making Bird. That was a challenge. another film much like Play Misty. much like White Hunter. Black Heart.that a lot of people thought they were going to do but then nobody actually made. It was a project I feel that maybe ten years down the line Warner Brothers will be proud to have in their library.‘ (iv)(‘lint woul d play a fascist dictator and murderer ofntillions ifhe thought he was right for the role ‘I have no image of myself. I would play any role if I thought I was suitable for it. If it was Adolf Hitler and I was proper casting. it would be a fascinating role to play. That’s what an actor does.‘ (\')Clint thinks the chaps at Warner Brothers are good blokes actually ‘I don‘t have a contract with anybody but I do have a relationship with Warner Brothers. They give me a free hand because they know I‘m going to spend money as carefully as they would themselves. They‘ve been supportive of my doing films outside the mainstream. like White Hunter and Bird. when a lot ofstudios might just have been looking for another shoot-‘em-up. They know I‘ll do some commercial films along the way. but they realise that sometimes certain films are just worth making.‘
And there you go. What else can we tell you? Well. he‘s just finished shooting another mainstream project entitled The Rookie. which stars himself as an older cop and Charlie Sheen as a younger cop. Enough said really. As the press corps filed out. we were left with the abiding impression of a no-nonsense craftsman. one who takes pride in doing the job of performer and director with careful precision. and who‘s eminently capable of bringing a good deal ofskill to it. When he‘s interested enough. that is (The Rookie. for example. sounds like another potboiler already). so we can only hope that as the years roll on Clinton Eastwood Jr gets less lazy. And just a bit more cussed about his movies.
White Hunter. Black Heart (PG) goes on release across central Scotland on Fri 3] Aug. See Film listings for details.
The List 31 August — 13 September 19905