Wednesday, 29 August 2012

20 Male Film Actors That Influence Me Most (Part 4)

Ladies and gentlemen, my new post is entirely about silence or the power of it. Number 17 is extremely accomplished as a director, writer, composer, politician and actor (and a number of other things). He maybe one of the most self made and important artists of our last century and he achieved all this while doing nothing, very well. 

17- Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood now, smiling.
Something he rarely does
in film.

Best Performance - The Man with No Name (particularly The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Most Interesting Performance- Walt Kowalski (Gran Torino)
Worst Performance - Thomas ‘Gunny’ Highway (Heartbreak Ridge)

Another controversial pick for my opinion list. I have noticed that a lot people either really look up to the man, or think he’s a pretentious fool. I happen to be a member of the former. Clint is an actor who understands the power of silence. I find in a lot of actor’s work they are unsettled by silence and will talk right through it (Daniel McIvor’s writing is a prime example). I love it, yet in my work rarely get to use it because directors are always focused so much on pace. The reason for this focus is generally because actors and productions are so unspecific that directors hide their inattention to detail in speed. But when you have a well oiled production, earned silences are satisfying. Clint is such a specific actor that the earned silence is often more prevalent then dialogue. Some would accuse Eastwood of ‘dragging it out.’ I believe that Clint understands how scenes function so well that he can naturally hear the length of the prime silence needed. In the work of Eastwood the silence says everything and this adds an aura of mystery and imagination to the film. He puts it best in his own words:

“My old drama coach used to say, 'Don't just do something, stand there.' Gary Cooper wasn't afraid to do nothing.”

This type of silence permeates his work and gives his characters strength and abyssal depth. I think it’s safe to claim that Clint Eastwood’s characters could be called both the most masculine and the strongest males in film. Not physically, but mentally and is that not the most important trait of both a good hero and a good villain? The most wonderful characteristic about Clint’s acting work that has so influenced me. His characters always   seem to stratal the balance of evil and good. Pick up the film High Plains Drifter( an Eastwood directed installment of the Man with No Name mythos) and marvel at how a character could be considered the film’s hero even though in his first appearance he rapes a woman. Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan (Bruce Lee as well and any action hero) all owe a grand debt to the work of Clint Eastwood. Those directors have all shared adoration of the man. (As to his direction [discussed I am sure in a coming list] I am luke warm. I think Unforgiven is brilliant, but I consider Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River extremely tedious.)

Clint has many brilliant performances to chose from, but it would be remiss of me not chose the character that is most associated with Eastwood as his best.That character is  The Man with No Name from the Sergio Leone Dollars Trilogy.  No Name is actually a stock character in Westerns coming from Kirusawa samurai film roots. He is a mysterious stranger that is at the center of a series of stories without us as audience ever getting to know either his motivations or background. (One could easily claim that The Doctor from Doctor Who fits this description as well. Perhaps this is why I so adore that series.) It is here that Eastwood’s minimal stoicism is in full show. Man becomes less a human character but a wandering violent god. Clint uses only the power of his eyebrows, eyes and cigar to express how the character interacts with his surroundings. It is mesmerizing to follow this walking legend through his many adventures which run the trilogy and into Clint’s own work, finally culminating in the film Unforgiven. Some seven films are considered to feature No Name. The best is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. In this film, No Name takes on one of his many nicknames: Blondie and participates in a bloody treasure hunt through the waining days of the American Civil War. Clint’s performance in this film is near perfect. It is controlled, rich, unsettling and even hilarious. Not to mention it exudes style which is always the mark of brilliance. I have decided to use the final gun sling as my example here. Note the economy of dialogue the character uses, which is gloriously balanced by the surplus of jabber from Eli Wallach. Even though at one point the character is challenged, Clint’s choice to not react, keeps him as the higher status character and you can easily see the ending from the opening frame. This scene is very near perfect, the Morricone score is sweeping, the detailed editing and cinematography is both needlessly epic while remaining minimal enough to accentuate character, and finally, the performances are all Olympic. Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach (who was originally on this list but sadly taken off through a self realization, is an extremely important character actor. Get to know his work.) are all equally as good as Eastwood. This is also the first major example of the Western using the Mexican Standoff that would become so prevalent in the works of Tarantino. Sit back, relax, allow the brilliance of this art to pour over you and get ready for spoilers. 

Clint Eastwood’s work spans from this year ,being 2012, to the 1950s when he was on Rawhide. For the last twenty years or perhaps more, Clint, has been wrestling with the changing world that he feels much to old for. This anxiety came out in a self penned, self directed, and self acted film Gran Torino made only a few years ago. This film is about a dinosaur Korean War vet that is watching his treasured blue collar neighborhood become a den for drugs, violence and gangs. He is also coming to terms with immigration and the new face of the US. Walt, the character’s name, is gloriously charming, offensive and down right heart felt possessing an honesty best suited for classic hero. Clint’s interpretation of this character feels almost autobiographical while also invoking a modern day Dirty Harry. Apt since it is Clint. Clint as his work progressed often became more eccentric to deal with his kind of otherworldly presence not suited for the world of CGI. This film and scene shows both of those traits. Walt Kowalski like No Name is a mythic creation worthy of appreciation. 

What happens when an actor begins to believe his own hype? Sgt. Highway from Heartbreak Ridge happens. This film is right at the beginning of Clint’s “I am too old for this shit stage.” Clint again plays the aging out of his time hero, but uncharacteristically Clint does far too much. Notice in this scene how Clint’s energy spews across the screen to the point that the character becomes absurd. This isn’t so much a terrible film, it is actually quite watchable and one that is played around the clock on the History Channel during the Christmas season for some reason. It is an example of what happens when Clint is uncontrolled in his performance. He looks absurd. With Clint less is more, and this performance proves it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment