Wednesday, January 21, 2009

a close-reading of clint eastwood's film "grand turino"

i wrote this on imdb and i felt it was worthy enough to be posted here. i'd be glad to know what you think, not just of my points, but of my writing abilities.......excluding my father, i know what you and your psychic think (and by god, out of heaven, you might be right). i feel i have some talent for it, and i'd like to know if you agree, i might just make a career out of my finger-taps

i liked the film, i did. but there are problems. Clint's style of directing is comfortingly simplistic: keep shooting, catch people off guard, realistically, and few re-shoots. it's certainly a very nice change from the standard Hollywood over-processed perfectionistic fare. however, there are chinks in the chain. clint's acting is solid as usual, however, i really think he's getting a bit of a self-imposed god complex. he seems to really see himself as a hard-ass figure; which is clear as he keeps choosing the same role for himself over and over. regardless of subtleties, Clint is playing the same guy he played in dirty harry, million dollar baby, unforgiven, and everything else, which is a harder-ass version of himself. i believe he really wants to be that person, and feels like he falls short of his ideal. he's an actor, but i don't think he sees himself that way. i think he really is trying to become the persona he displays (minus the racism)........which is to say: he's desperately trying to be a tough guy; solid, immovable, unable to be swayed by life's problems; i can certainly relate to this desire.

i just read his wiki page and i think i'm RIGHT on the money. forgive my arrogance, but damn i'm perceptive : )........ so what am i talking about? well, he was drafted to go to Korea, but he was in a plane crash, and had to remain behind. this explains so much. clint, the man, was never able to become a war hero, never able to become a combat soldier, never able to have his metal tested, and thus never able to really find out what he was made of, whether he would have fought or ran, if he would have been brave and courageous; I can guarantee you that these questions haunt the man. in this story he is playing the character of: himself, IF the plain hadn't crashed, and he had gone to korea and fought, lived, and came back home, scarred and angry. however, i don't feel it. Eastwood's character is very racist, but the racism becomes the comic-relief of the story, and is never really mean spirited, except for some initial blusterings. even if it was supposed to be, he shows his true colors relatively quickly as he accepts his neighbors. a true, dyed in the wool racist would not do that, he would not make friends with outsiders. clint's character doesn't feel right to me. he feels like CLINT EASTWOOD, the man, playing the version of his life where he went to battle and returned half a man. he feels rather like a stereotype to me. there are a few instances where i feel the horror of what his character witnessed seep through, but mostly the character feels too inwardly kind and too outwardly gruff to really feel like a true racist, hateful, irrevocably damaged person. it's subtle, but it's there. the character is GOOD at heart, and he still has a heart. and yes, before you jump on me, of course i realize that the point of the story is that clint's character was redeemed by helping the asians. i get it, of course. i'm dealing on things on a deeper level than that. that part doesn't feel to impossible; i can see someone becoming bitter after the horrors of war, but more-so, i would expect him to be HAUNTED, and this is a side of the character we never see. this part of it i believe is missing, and is a mistake. clint tells toad that the things that haunt you most are what you weren't ordered to do, but other than this brief lapse, we don't really have much of a window into the horror of living with blood on your hands, and the what-ifs of dead friends and killed enemies.

then there's the other issue, which is the casting. i have to say that i didn't feel like a single supporting cast member, perhaps with the exception of the barber, was any good. the kid was barely ok, the sister was very choppy, the gang members also felt choppy and sloppy, and not convincing. they turn from posers to killers way to fast. i think clint doesn't really understand the THICK line that separates the two. i've known many posers in my time. they look like these guys in the film. they don't kill or rape without discretion. they just talk talk talk, like these guys do at the beginning. they don't unload on a house, rape a girl, and then retreat to a known building, exposed. they're betting a hell of a fcking lot that the humung's (sp?) will "keep their mouths closed"......too much. it doesn't feel real. the way the black guy's acted when clint showed up, now THAT is true poser-behavior. in fact, that might be the most real acting in the film. the blustering bravado, the cowardliness of their actions when clint pulled a gun on them, and the subsequent response of "you too" to clint's "have a nice day" was absolutely perfect. saying "you too" is a coward's way of trying to regain face in the situation, by pretending that they are OK with what clint did. it's pathetic and perfect, they are making sure that clint knows that they are cool with him, which is really a way of saying "please don't hurt me, i won't ever do it again".....and i bet they won't. now, the asian gangbangers, after encountering clint on the lawn, and the fat one getting bashed and pulled-on, they would be scared shitless. they would not be attacking. they would be peeing themselves. if clint had meant them to be real gangsters, he should have done so from the beginning rather than make them act like wannabees. i know that what clint is trying to do here is make a point that gangsters are cowards at heart. this is somewhat true, but i think he just doesn't understand real gangs. real gangsters are generally not cowards. they may be weak-at heart and morally bankrupt, but they are generally cold killers. you cannot pull that point-your-hand-at-them-like-a-gun, bravado-bullshit with bloods or crypts and expect them to go running. they wouldn't run away from some guy just because he's an old soldier. gangsters are soldiers too. they are killers too. they are also often not without honor. they generally have a very highly developed sense of honor, and looking out for their own and their turf, and fck everyone and everything else. that sense of honor may be massively skewed and morally bankrupt, but it is very much there, make no mistake. there is a definitive difference between gangsters and wannabees. there is no subtlety in it. and the difference is simple: one type talks, the other murders. those lines generally don't cross. i understand the Asians are a small gang, and that does slightly excuse them of being posers and killers at the same time, but not completely. also, that the leader would defend toad, and then burn him with a cigarette, that also feels totally wrong. he's cousin to the leader, he's family, he's a civilian, generally that means he is protected, even though they might push him (hard) to enter the gang. but to treat him so disrespectfully, it just reeks of falsehood; more study on real gangs was needed here. i imagine it won't bother most folks, but growing up in socal, i understand these important differences. i also think clint's directing style (as well as the casting, which just feels rushed) contributes to this. go go go is his way to direct, and it shows. i think these people could have really benefited from some re-takes and some real DIRECTION. not everyone can just FEEL their character like you can clint, sometimes they need direction, and these supporting actors really could have used some. slurred words, unconvincing postures, it feels "real"........but too "real" goes past the REAL of portraying exactly what this situation would be like, and goes all the way into the actual REAL of actors playing the role. it is that real. it feels almost like a play.

eastwood is trying once again, and more directly than ever, to become the person he wants to convince himself that he is: a brave warrior, standing strong no matter what comes. i can relate. those of us who never fought in war will always wonder whether or not we really have true bravery in us; whether we would fight or run; we cannot possibly know, and that is difficult for a man to take. of course it is far better to not know, to be spared these horrors; but when a man measures himself by his courage (especially if his father taught him to do so), not knowing this about oneself can lead to intense confusion, and there is absolutely no way to really know than to do battle. clint came very close to knowing, very very close; he was just days away from finding out, but he was "robbed" of this knowledge. of course if he had gone, he might not be here to give us these films, which breathe a real sense of dignity and honesty into Hollywood, giving us something real, in a land of bullshit that is called realism. "realism" is the film style au-joir, you see it in everything; take a look at superhero films from 20 years ago, and those today, look at batman; you will see what i mean. eastwood actually delivers realism, practically like no one else, not just real-flavored substitute, which is what most are reaching for these days. i believe clint really embodies his character, but i also believe that what i'm watching is clint eastwood, playing clint eastwood, minus what vexes him the most: the uncertainty of not knowing what he is made of. i believe that it is this driving desire that influences so many of his characters in his films, perhaps every last one of them.


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