A quintessential tough guy on the screen and all around talent, Clint Eastwood has been acting and directing since before many of us can remember. And with him turning 87 today, I thought it good to pay tribute to him. If you’re talking about work ethic, Eastwood’s is pretty enviable as he’s still going strong. There’s a tenacity to Clint Eastwood, in both his acting and directing, he goes for projects that challenge him. And of course, he’s one bad ass dude too in many of his roles. A talented craftsman and icon, Happy Birthday Clint.
- Clint Eastwood as John McBurney
- Geraldine Page as Martha Farnsworth
- Elizabeth Hartman as Edwina
- Jo Ann Harris as Carol
- Mae Mercer as Hallie
- Pamelyn Ferdin as Amy
A most unusual and unsettling tale of sexual repression, desire and revenge, The Beguiled represents something different from Don Siegel and his go to star Clint Eastwood. And that’s precisely what makes it so unique; it’s an unpredictable film that goes into some really dark areas and knows how to craft something shocking in the long run.
It is the Civil War and Corporal John McBurney is discovered wounded one morning in the South, by a young girl named Amy. She brings him to the all girls school she attends for help to his injuries . The stern headmistress Martha Farnsworth reluctantly takes McBurney in, despite her protestations of him being a Yankee which are discovered early on. The school also houses timid but well-meaning teacher Edwina, a group of young girls including temptress Carol and slave Hallie. These ladies haven’t been in the company of a man for a while, save for the occasional visit from the patrol with news of the war. Gradually, John is nursed into help but watched over due to him bring considered an enemy. But his very arrival signals something very dark that will shake the foundations of everyone to the core. The rigid status quo soon begins to crack as each of the women begin developing romantic longings for John. He leads them all on with his advances and manipulations, his conceit for others slowly emerging as he plays with their romantic feelings for his own pleasure. Even the rigid headmistress Martha starts to get hot under the collar and crumble as the facade of her righteousness stumbles, along with the easily influenced Edwina’s belief that John really loves her. Everything boils over eventually into shocking consequences in the school for everyone there . John is left to fend off the wrath of the scorned women that has been unleashed by his toying with their affections and is now coming back to viciously bite.
This refreshingly unusual and heated film provides Don Siegel with a really experimental film that takes a number of unexpected and shocking turns. It feels very much ahead of its time with some of the content it displays, marking it as different and pretty unsettling at the same time in a pretty psychological way. Don Siegel pitches the mood just right, suggesting the onslaught of dark content that transpires in the latter half, in the slow burn of things that allows The Beguiled to take on a measured but rewarding path to chilling finale. The mood is where The Beguiled is it; creeping away even when nothing startling is happening and throwing in little snippets of potential danger for the fun of it. The Beguiled is at its best as a Southern Gothic drama, that rises to fever pitch as sexual thoughts and betrayal tear the relative calm of the school to pieces. Super imposed frames, spinning camera to signify the unrest he will bring and Sepia toned frames are impressive tools in the arsenal of this strange film. In fact, The Beguiled feels very hallucinatory and disorientating in its construction, captured by the effectiveness of Don Siegel and his off-kilter direction. While the Civil War serves as a backdrop, another war between the sexes rages on in The Beguiled with sheer force and horrifying anguish within the confines of the school. At its core, it’s the male dominance slowly being subverted and oppressed by the female alternative that becomes the real backbone of this claustrophobic story. Stifled and feverish are words that come to mind when viewing the switch of the women in the story, slowly bubbling away until spilling over with John facing the full force of the wronged ladies. Some of it feels too over the top, but the percolating hysteria set off by the sly John is best observed in such an intense way that you can overlook these tiny flawed moments. The culmination of perverse sexuality and dark areas of the mind are evinced best in a hallucinatory dream sequence. In it John is with both Martha and Edwina, the three almost intertwined sexually in disturbing fashion through peculiar angles and overlapping images. An insidiously chilling score allows the unusual nature of this story to reveal itself slowly but surely.
Kudos must be given to Clint Eastwood for playing such an unsympathetic and nasty character. Successfully starting out quietly in his smooth manipulation of the women, his base instincts reveals themselves and his machismo emerges shockingly, resulting in all manner of hysteria among the women. Everything John experiences is by his own hand and it’s a credit to Eastwood’s abilities at capturing his moral ambivalence and greediness of his actions that makes the part an interesting one. Geraldine Page splendidly radiates buttoned-up authority under siege as the headmistress Martha, while laying bare that the morally respectable image she projects is covering something darker. Elizabeth Hartman delicately plays the meekness and abused kindness of Edwina, who falls hardest for John and completely under his spell because of her fragile disposition. Out of all the characters, she’s probably the most inherently decent throughout and the one hurt the most. Jo Ann Harris is good in the role of sultry temptress student, while Mae Mercer is wise as the slave who knows the impact John will have and resists his advances. Pamelyn Ferdin shines as the little girl who rescues him and develops a hopeless crush, only to see it dashed and shattered along with her innocence.
A film not easily forgotten is the best way to describe The Beguiled. With its lurid and unusual story, enlivened by the atmosphere and acting, it stands as a hauntingly intense psychological drama.
- Clint Eastwood as Detective Wes Block
- Geneviève Bujold as Beryl Thibodeaux
- Dan Hedaya as Detective Molinari
- Alison Eastwood as Amanda Block
A thriller that functions as a study of the lines between the hunter and the hunted blurring and strange sexual predilections, Tightrope retains an impact as it explores one man’s journey into murky waters that are complicated by startling links with a killer.
In New Orleans, a spate of sexual murders among prostitutes and massage parlour girls is baffling the police. Experienced and tough Detective Wes Block is the main person investigating, while having his own demons to contend with. His wife left him a while back and he is caring for his two young daughters. While he’s a dedicated father, there is a void in his life that he fills with a dark and possibly damaging string of nocturnal activities, they will become integral later on. Beryl Thibodeaux works at a council centre for a rape prevention program that teaches women self-defense and offers shelter from abuse. She advises Block on certain aspects of the case, but Block is initially standoffish with her. Investigating further, Block discovers that he shares quite a lot of similarities with the killer; the main one being the frequenting of downtown New Orleans for hookers in exchange for kinky encounters. This profoundly disturbs Block, who is trying to balance the dark and good of his life carefully. Unfortunately the killer is very much on his tail and when women that Block has employed the services of start to fall, it starts to get extremely personal for Block. Added to this are his growing feelings for Beryl that seem almost foreign as he’s met by a woman who takes no guff and is far from willing to surrender. He must now track down the taunting killer, who seems to know about his own dark needs and is using it to his advantage to torment him.
The unobtrusive direction brings more attention to the story than just having visuals( which are very good at setting the seedy atmosphere) doing it for them, letting it play out as a slow burn that takes its time with what it wants to say. Richard Tuggle is in the director’s seat, though there have been claims over the years that Clint Eastwood actually directed most of it. Whatever the case with who directed it, Tightrope grabs the attention in a way that isn’t obvious, but still enthralling to watch nonetheless. Where Tightrope particularly soars is in the exploration of how Block sees women, and how his deviant side is given a kicking once the killer latches on to him. This proves to be fascinating to watch, particularly in how his relationship with Beryl forms and he begins to let his guard down, for perhaps the first time in a while. What Tightrope sometimes lacks in tension, it makes up for in character development and thematic value. Saying that, there are a number of chilling scenes, not least when Block’s family are targeted by the killer and the case gets very anguishing for him. It’s more the examination of the man and his attitudes that really makes Tightrope worth the watch, with the thriller parts still there but exceptionally allowing the other content to emerge. The seedy underbelly of things is never far from view as Tightrope isn’t afraid to project the unusual sexual angle to the murder, but these are thankfully not just there for sick exploitative material. They actually serve a purpose and to be honest, a lot of the horrible things that happen occur off-screen. Jazz is featured heavily in the film and excellently counteracted by an electronic pulse whenever darkness drives on the scene, providing a flip on the usually relaxed big band stuff that we hear in the beginning.
Clint Eastwood, through subtle degrees of vulnerability and encroaching shock, excellently layers his performance as the detective haunted by his own behaviour and having it replayed in grisly fashion. Just a stiffening of his neck or a slight uneasiness in his eyes says a lot more than simple dialogue can. Eastwood wisely doesn’t make Block an out-and-out creep, rather a tormented man who wants control and finds it through strange sexual activity. This is offset by his clear love for his daughters and how much he cares about them. Bringing the two sides together makes for one of Eastwood’s most understated yet vulnerable performance. Geneviève Bujold is equally as good playing the rape councillor who is far from a damsel and more than a match for the tough Eastwood. she is also the person who breaks down the wall Block has put up, thanks to her deep understanding and persistence. Bujold splendidly imbues her part with a sympathy and believable forcefulness that ensure her character is taken seriously in the passionate way she helps Block and others. Dan Hedaya is somewhat saddled with role of sidekick police partner but does pretty good, while Alison Eastwood is convincingly mature as Block’s oldest daughter who just wants her dad around a bit more. It helps that she is really Eastwood’s daughter because the bond between them is very touching.
A dark film that doesn’t shy away from anything sleazy yet wisely rises above exploitation levels, Tightrope features a complex performance from Clint Eastwood that makes it extremely watchable, especially given the disturbing content. More of a character study than out-and-out thriller, the attention given to the characters is what makes Tightrope that something different.
The Bridges of Madison County
- Clint Eastwood as Robert Kincaid
- Meryl Streep as Francesca Johnson
- Annie Corley as Carolyn Johnson
- Victor Slezak as Michael Johnson
A tender and beautifully realised romantic drama directed by Clint Eastwood and containing great performances from the man himself and Meryl Streep, The Bridges of Madison County is a satisfying and mature film that will touch you.
The year is 1965 and Francesca Johnson is an Italian war bride married to farmer Richard and living in Madison County. Although very much a loving wife and mother, Francesca is discontented with life and bored. Her husband and two teenage children go the fair for four days and this is where the crux of her story comes in. While they are away, she encounters photographer for National Geographic Robert Kincaid. He is there to photograph the many bridges of the area and first meets lonely Francesca when he loses his way. Soon enough, the two become friendly with each and the travelling Robert with his charming demeanor helps Francesca open up. What starts as friendship between the pair soon becomes love and for the four days that her family are away, she and Robert conduct their brief affair, not realising how much it will impact both of them. As the four days wear on, it is up to Francesca to decide whether to be with Robert who has made her feel alive once more or stay with her husband and children. The movie is structured around siblings Carolyn and Michael Johnson who have come back to the Iowa farmhouse that they grew up in after Francesca’s death. While sorting out the land arrangements and thoroughly being baffled by their mother’s wishes to be cremated, they come across a number of diaries that she left to them. Curious about them, the siblings begin to read their now deceased mother’s story and are surprised to learn about how deeply the affair with Robert affected her and how they never knew this side to their mother until now.
As director of the film, Clint Eastwood displays masterful observations and subtle indications of the love that grows between Robert and Francesca in the brief time they spend together. He never resorts to sentimentality, instead giving The Bridges of Madison County a natural depth and passion that can’t be ignored. Eastwood doesn’t feel the need to rush the story either, he employs a carefully structured pace that helps the friendship that blooms between the couple eventually turn to deep love. We see them genuinely fall in love through little things; a slight brush of the hand or a gaze are highly effective at bringing out the love that each begins to feel for the other. Some may wonder how the film could have a deliberate pace when the main story takes place over the course of just four days, but Eastwood lets events unfold in a very mature and beautiful way that compliments the story. Yes there are some lulls in the narrative, mainly when it goes back to the son and daughter, but for the most part it is very handled and exceptional romantic drama with both time zones corresponding. A building score of mainly piano and string gives voice to the passions growing between Francesca and Robert. And no discussion of this movie would be complete without giving a shout out to the simply gorgeous cinematography that envelops the movie in a hues of gold and twilight that burn into the memory.
What gives The Bridges of Madison County a whole heft of emotion is the cast. Clint Eastwood on acting duties is suitably fine as the wandering Robert, who brings out a new side to Francesca with his devil-may-care attitude and genuine clarity. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Clint Eastwood play such a sensitive character before, but he pulls it off admirably. Matching him every step of the way is the wonderful Meryl Streep. Combining a homely warmth, guarded passion and grace, she is wonderful at showing Francesca emerging into a totally different woman in the arms of someone who makes her feel like she’s been given another chance to live. The chemistry shared between them is tentative and filled with earnest desire, and it is really nice to see it be a love story concerning mature adults instead of the generic young lovers scenario. Annie Corley and Victor Slezak are fine as the children learning about their mother after her death, but the movie truly belongs to Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep who give it a moving and haunting quality.
Heartfelt, filled with lovely cinematography and capable of bringing you to genuine tears, The Bridges of Madison County is a sublime movie that tenderly looks at how love can change us and stay with us forever.
- Clint Eastwood as Luther Whitney
- Gene Hackman as President Alan Richmond
- Ed Harris as Detective Seth Frank
- Laura Linney as Kate Whitney
- Scott Glenn as Bill Burton
- Dennis Haysbert as Tim Collin
- Judy Davis as Gloria Russell
- E. G. Marshall as Walter Sullivan
It may not be a movie that breaks any new ground, but Clint Eastwood’s Absolute Power is a taut and tense thriller that is severely underrated and should be better known due to some fine acting and confident direction.
Luther Whitney is a smart and methodical cat burglar, who is also ageing. Deciding to do one last job, he infiltrates the wealthy home of prominent philanthropist Walter Sullivan. Yet this job proves to be much deadlier and dangerous than his previous work because of what he witnesses. The young wife of the Sullivan named Christy is drunk and cavorting with none other than the President Alan Richmond, yet this liaison becomes very dark as he becomes abusive and she attempts to flee. To Luther’s horror, Secret Service agents come in and shoot her, killing her. The President’s loyal fixer Gloria Russell then orchestrates a cover up. Luther manages to escape with a key piece of evidence. Meanwhile, determined Detective Seth Frank investigates the murder and while suspicious of Luther, doesn’t think he committed murder. Luther is all for skipping the country in fear that he will be discovered and possibly accused of the crime. But just as he is about to leave, he sees a new report detailing a press conference from Richmond in which he condemns violence in society and uses Sullivan as a way of sympathy. Enraged by this, Luther decides to stay and fight for justice. He enlists the help of his estranged prosecutor daughter Kate, who holds deep resentment for him but helps anyway as she is curious to see whether her father really cares for her. With both the police and the president’s men on his detail, Luther must stay sharp if he is to expose the corruption at the top of the political ladder while staying alive.
As a director, Clint Eastwood showcases confident and engaging direction throughout Absolute Power. I admired the way he knew when to slow events down to focus on the personal drama of Luther’s complicated relationship with his daughter, and then ratchet them up a notch to generate suspense and intrigue. The murder sequence and Luther’s escape are fine examples of this skill, as it builds up slowly but surely and then becomes heart-stopping and thrilling. Absolute Power is very well-paced and doesn’t feel the need to rush events, rather it lets them unravel while still being riveting as we watch Luther outwit assailants in his hope to bring the President down. I’ve always found political scandals and cover ups fascinating and Absolute Power definitely reinforces that. The sharp script addresses themes of morality and corruption, while giving the characters some excellent dialogue to read. There are occasional implausibilities along the way, yet they can be forgiven because of how well-mounted and directed the movie is. Praise should go to the editing which compliments the dangerous journey and subsequent attempts to avoid being killed. An excellent score is further helpful in establishing the cat and mouse game at play.
Leading the well-established and talented cast is Clint Eastwood himself. He does a marvellous job portraying Luther, who is smart, efficient and not afraid to admit that he’s getting to old for the thieving business. Instead of the character just being a grumpy old man, Eastwood displays lightness of foot, wry humour yet also a code of moral conduct that means he can’t walk away from the crime he has seen. There may be no honor among thieves, but Eastwood’s character has a heart. As the corrupt president, Gene Hackman is an excellent choice as he conveys a slimy quality and the ability to use those around him for his own dirty work. The ever-reliable Ed Harris is on hand playing the determined but good-hearted detective, whose unconvinced that Luther is guilty of murder but curious to know what knowledge he has. Harris shares a particularly entertaining scene with Eastwood as he tries to get information out of him, but Eastwood bluffs and only offers hints with a dash of wry humour. Laura Linney fills her role of Luther’s estranged daughter with a toughness that belies inner pain at all the times her father wasn’t there for her as a child. Scott Glenn and Dennis Haysbert are fine as the Secret Service agents with different ideas about how to handle the scandal, Glenn being the one who feels remorse, while Haysbert is the ice-cold killer who asks no questions. Judy Davis is impeccable as the fixer who while good at her job fears that one day her worrying attitude will trip her up. And rounding out the cast in what would be his final screen appearance is E. G. Marshall, who is very as the philanthropist whose wife was murdered.
Tightly constructed and splendidly performed, Absolute Power is a thriller that is crafted with precision from Clint Eastwood.