Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1234, (19 - 25 February 2015)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1234, (19 - 25 February 2015)

Ahram Weekly

He keeps on rolling

Obviously “Age cannot wither” him. In fact it keeps energising him and astounding us. Ignoring the fleeting years, the greying hairs, the deepening wrinkles, Clint Eastwood has not retired basking on some tropic isle, with his wealth and fame.  He just keeps on working on his lifetime passion, telling a story in motion pictures and telling it his way.

His latest film American Sniper which he describes as “anti-war” is a war saga on the unpopular Iraq war, based on a true story of Chris Kyle’s eponymous memoir. It was not supposed to be a public pleaser as most war films, nor was it supposed to attract Academy voters for the Oscars, who are notorious for being anti-war and so “politically correct”. Surprisingly it did both and once again Clint Eastwood is sitting on top of the world.

It is amazing how often we feel compelled to cover the phenomenon of this unique film-maker who has defied age, time and trendiness, gaining respect and admiration not only in his homeland, but around the world. With such an enduring talent and a capacity for understanding and growth he is undoubtedly “a man for all seasons”.

He is by far the youngest 83-year old in Hollywood or elsewhere.  Looking at him now you still see the “pretty boy” of six decades ago, when he lit up the small screen in the Western TV series Rawhide, or the spaghetti Westerns of Italian director Sergio Leone, as popular today as they were in the 60s. A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly are considered a few of the best films of all time.

He has been nominated for 12 Oscars, won five, what more does he aim to accomplish? “Everybody wonders why? Why I continue working at this stage. I keep working, because there’s always new stories and as long as people want me to tell them, I’ll be there doing them”. The public’s response is one of sheer delight. Yes, yes, please keep doing them!

He obviously does not mind aging, in fact one suspects, he likes it. Time has allowed him to explore every genre of film-making always leaning to the noir-ish, but the Western has been his true identification.  He personifies a period gone by, the loner, operating by himself without benefit of society. Like Robin Hood his pursuit was justice, the hardest of all pursuits, the last masculine frontier. He became the rebel, meting out Providence’s justice, when the law of thee land could not. A cool, tall, lone stranger then and he remains a cool, tall lone stranger now.

“If possible, he looks even taller, leaner and more mysteriously possessed”, wrote Vince Canby of the New York Times. “The years haven’t softened him. They have given him the presence of some fierce force of nature. There’s no one like him.” Though these words were published in 1992, they will always describe the essence of the man and his artistry.

Scholars have explored Eastwood’s work from ethical and theological perspectives, including his portrayal of justice, mercy, suicide and the angel of death, themes he always explores.

His latest film, American Sniper a commentary on the unpopular Iraq war was not supposed to be a public pleaser, nor was it supposed to attract Academy voters, yet it has done both. It was originally slated for Steven Spielberg who requested too many changes. When he dropped out Warner Bros. called in the older Hollywood genius, the one man who can do it all and never disappoint….Clint Eastwood. 

What a lucky choice for everyone concerned. It turned out to be Eastwood’s most successful film to date, the highest grossing war film ever, and six Oscar nominations is the cherry on the cake. Its Box Office intake, almost $300 million surpasses all the other nominated films combined. Still his intense war drama is no guarantee he shall win for Best Picture, as other films such as Boyhood and Birdman are considered strong competition. Chances among “Oscarologists” is that Bradley Cooper who portrays the lethal American sniper, Chris Kyle, may take home the gold as this is his third nomination.  Academy voters are “whacky” and there is often no rhyme or reason for their choices.

Eastwood pays no attention to Hollywood whims. Like “Ole Man River” he just keeps rolling along.

He is a health/fitness fiend, never smoked in his life, goes to bed at 10pm and hits the golf course every chance he gets. A serious womaniser, he has had several affairs, marriages and children and is presently dating a 44-year-old. He is a hero among the younger generation who find his cool lifestyle one to emulate.

In left-leaning Hollywood he makes no qualms about his conservative values, contending that the US should not play the role of global policeman. What he thinks of Obama is similar to what we all think: “a greenhorn who didn’t have experience in decision-making”, and we may add, is not prepared to learn. He never kissed up to politics or politicians but says it like it is, a risk in Hollywood society, which does not bother him.

His charitable causes, his superb piano playing and musical compositions, his fierce independence, his unique style, his hard work and continued creativity makes him not only an American icon, but one of the cinema’s rare masters in front and behind the camera.

“It is better to deserve honours and not receive them than to have them and not deserve them”

Mark Twain (1835-1920)


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