Clint Eastwood’s return as actor and 3 director to the Western genre with l Unforgiven is being acclaimed as his finest achievement in years. Trevor Johnston tips his ten-gallon hat to a late masterpiece. l


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9:.. 53"'::t.£.-.e: a . finished product is enough to tell you why it‘s


taken so long to reach the screen. Although a I variant on the ‘man‘s-gotta-do’ theme. this is dark

L and brooding territory. peopled by eccentic

For those of you who weren‘t entirely convinced by the likes of Young Guns. Clint Eastwood's ' Unforgiven will confirm your prejudices against : greenhorn actors in the Western movie landscape. ; Grizzled. greying and crotchety. Clint‘s latest screen creation retired gunslinger. grieving widower and less-than-succcssful farmer Bill i Munny— genuinely looks like he‘s been there and lived it. Like John Wayne in Don Siegel's The Shootistor Steve McQueen‘s Tom Horn. he’s a man reflecting on the past because he doesn‘t quite; belong in the present. the sort of role a star will 3 only take on when he‘s waved bye-bye to matinee l idol status and isn’t fussed if he looks a bit on the crinkly side. l Eastwood, by all accounts. has been saving l Unforgiven until he felt old enough to do it. Originally written by David Webb Peoples (best known for his work on Blade Runner) in the mid-70s when they were still actually making the odd Western. Francis Coppola previously had an option on the script before Clint‘s Malpaso company bought it in the early 80$. Offering little concession to the tastes ofthe modern multiplex-going youth audience. a glance at the

characters and drawing on an emotional palette

that runs from psychosis to melancholia.

A town named Big Whiskey is the setting for an opening moment ofcarnage. In a drunken assault.

' two cowboys cut up one of the local whores. but

sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) demands that they only pay out a fine of half a dozen horses for their crime. Outraged. the prostitutes band together to put a bounty of $500

: on each ofthe attackers. a healthy reward that

leads would-be gunman The Scholficld Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) to seek out the legendary yet long-retired Munny to help him collect the prize. With life on the farm not going too well. the reformed killer decides to take up the youngsters offer and enlists his old partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) to join them on their task.

As the action progresses. there‘s a way in which the film‘s revisionist feel shows Clint re-assessing his own former ‘Man With No Name‘ image as the cold. silent and deadly cheroot-chomping handler ofa six-gun. While the various parties head for violent confrontation in Big Whiskey. they have been preceded there by the arrival of flamboyant outlaw English Bob (Richard Harris) and his hack

'\ i

biographer. who is to receive a lesson in the difference between truth and legend. when Little Bill tells him how the old West really was and Munny is on hand with the bloody evidence to prove it.

Obviously a changed man under the influence of his late wife. Munny has come to regard the old days not with nostalgia but with a faint sense of horror and self-loathing. His gun-slinging days were not the thrilling. quickfire exploits ofpulp Western fiction. but a litany of motiveless slaughter and senseless killing. All ofwhich in itselfthrows a new light on Eastwood’s Leone films. but what‘s more disturbing is Munny‘s realisation that it‘s precisely the psychotic elements of his own personality that made him so good with a gun.

With a chillingly stern performance by Clint the actor. very ably supported by a stellar selection of old stagers. Clint the director brings everything together with supreme confidence and control. Superny shot by cameraman Jack N. Green in the shadowy style that impressed so much in Bird. this is challenging. richly mature stuff to draw comparison with the best of late Aldrich and Peckinpah. A heartening hit at the US box office. it could well make your day.

Unforgiven opens across Scotland on Friday I 8 September.


'~ !

I Rawhide (1959—66) Fresh-faced Clint is Rowdy Yates. who made 144 TV trips along a Kansas cattle trail to the strains of Frankie Lainc.

I A Fistful Of Dollars ( 1964) Clint‘s first taste ofspaghetti is as an amoral gunslinger selling his wares to two rival gangs.

I For A Few Dollars More ( 1965) Clint teams up with bounty hunter Lee Van Clecf to take on a psychotic bandit and his gang.

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I The Good, The Bad in he Ugly

(1966) Clint chases buried treasure against a Civil War backdrop in Leone‘s classic with a masterful Morricone score.

I Hang 'Em High (1967) Clint returns to Hollywood as a cowboy rescued from hanging who then gets his revenge.

I Paint YourWagon ( 1969) Clint’s crooning of ‘I Talk To The Trees‘ is the cinematic equivalent ofshooting yourself in the foot with a six-gun.

I The Beguiled (1970) Weird and arty movie with Clint as a wounded Yankee soldier being cared for in a Southern seminary for young women.

I High Plains Drilter( 1972) Clini’s first shot at directing a western places himselfin the heart ofa

surreal revenge plot.

I The Outlaw Josey Wales ( 1976) Clint becomes a Confederate outlaw when his family are murdered. but mellows under the influence ofthe various strays he attracts.

I Bronco Billy ( 1980) Undervalued contemporary Western with Clint as a shoe-salesman who builds up a travelling Wild West circus.

I Pale Rider ( 1985) Clint comes to town. sides with the poor and beats offthe baddies. getting his face on the first ever List cover in the process.

I Unforgiven ( 1992) Clint looks back on his Western career as a reformed killer who joins a bounty hunt in this . brooding reflection on violence and

| its consequences.


The List 11- 24 September 199213