Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Is Clint Eastwood the Embodiment of America?

Before a foot has even been shot, Clint Eastwood's new picture is "headed for the maw of political controversy"

writes John Vinocur in the International Herald Tribune.

Eastwood has been there often enough since his Dirty Harry cop movies. In those days, Clint and the films' fight-back message got called dementedly violent, even proto-fascist. Now, respected and rich, there is more of an instinct to let the political stuff roll off his back, like the current accusation that Million Dollar Baby is pro-euthanasia.

But the flag-raising-at-Iwo-Jima movie, with its seeming premise of American triumphalism, is another story. Making it in the context of the slog in Iraq confronts Eastwood with creating a film that, regardless of what he puts into it, precasts itself as a metaphor.

Read the following sentence and ask yourself if Eastwood is not, somewhere, somehow, the embodiment of America:
Underestimated, dismissed much of his life, and because of it thinking faster and more slyly than most everybody he talks to, Eastwood was ahead of the curve, of course.
Vinocur continues about the man who played the "squinting Dirty Harry — the cop who enraged the left by saying it's as morally reprehensible to submit to violence as to create it":
Actually, Eastwood describes himself as a social liberal and a fiscal conservative ("If there are anymore"). That means he's not against abortion and is not waiting alongside Mel Gibson for the apocalypse. It takes no tortured construct to think of him as a guy out of blue-collar Oakland with real concern about the injustice and humiliation in his country, and a conviction that on the global scale of what's fair or good, the U.S.A., plus or minus, checked and balanced, is still the world's strong suit.

…So here he is at 74, hating thesis movies, but ready to make a picture about a moment of American glory that will say a lot, if by indirection, about what kind of place he thinks the United States is now.

(A Cyrus Weisburg contributes an update from Helsinki (third letter down))

(While we are on the subject of Hollywood, take a moment to read what Alejandro Amenábar proposes to do with his Oscar (third paragraph).)