High Plains Drifter (1973) is the second film in Clint Eastwood’s rather auspicious filmography as a director. This is the first to explore the genre of the Western, where Eastwood made his name, after the contemporary surrounds of his first directorial effort Play Misty for Me (1971).
The film starts really promisingly as a lone rider emerges from a haze of heat on a wide open plain. It is beautiful and iconic image to kick things off. The lone rider is The Stranger, played by Eastwood, who rhythmically rides into town with the eyes of all the townsfolk transfixed on him. It does not take him long to make an impression on the place either. He guns down three heavies who are bugging him in the barbershop before raping a woman in a really troubling scene. I was a big fan of proceedings up until the rape scene. Eastwood with his hat pulled very low and a beard is an iconic image of the West. The scene where he shoots the three men is a cold, brutal one. He gets the first of them right between the eyes. The rape scene jarred a lot though. It comes somewhat out of nowhere and whilst it is addressed somewhat later on, it just didn’t sit right with me. The notion of rape as a form of revenge was troubling to me, but I don’t think the film made it out to be particularly troubling, if that makes sense.
There is a strange shift in tone and sensibility a little way through the film. The townsfolk are fearing the return of three convicts who have just been released from prison and who are presumably on their way back to town to gain revenge on those who put them away. Very High Noon (1952). The concerned residents, impressed by The Stranger’s skills in murdering the three men in the barbershop, decide to hire him to protect them. After some brief reluctance, he accepts, on the proviso that he can have whatever he wants in the town. From this point the tone lightness as he gets a merry band of men together and goes from shop to shop being a jerk and getting free stuff. He also promotes Mordecai, a local dwarf, to the dual role of mayor and sheriff. After such a strong, if imperfect, start which traded in the bleakness, grit and lawlessness of the West, this all feels like a bit of a jaunt. I don’t particularly like my Clint Eastwood quippy. James Bond makes quips, not Clint. It is just all a bit silly.
Then, just abruptly as the first shift, the film gets bleak again. Eastwood forces himself onto another woman (the treatment of women by the film was a little troubling overall) and then paints the town literally red and renames it hell so he can exact his revenge on the three men riding into town. Who it is revealed through the film have done something in their past to very much wrong The Stranger. It is no spoiler to say he has his revenge too. The hellacious image of The Stranger brutally whipping a man to death, surrounded by huge flickering flames is surely the film’s defining image. It is also one that does not really match up with so much that has preceded it though.
The uneven tone and questionable attitude to the treatment of women helped to make High Plains Drifter not that enjoyable for me. Which is a shame, because I like Eastwood as a director and the early parts of this set it up to be something far better.
Verdict: Schooner of Carlton Draught
I really enjoyed the first live tweet film review I did of The Creature from the Black Lagoon (you can check out the result here). It also has the added benefit of saving a little time, because you are able to watch and review the film at the same time.
The idea behind live tweeting, in my mind at least, lends itself to B movies and films that you can take a more lighthearted approach to. This time however, I thought I would take a shot at a more critically acclaimed film, from the 1001, to see how that turned out. I will be live tweeting the film next Sunday the 23rd at 2:00pm. Be sure to follow me on twitter to be involved.
I think it’s more fun for you guys to choose though, so which of these 5 acclaimed films should I live tweet? Be sure to leave a comment with your choice.
The Wrestler (2008) dir by Darren Aronofsky
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) dir by Clint Eastwood
Spartacus (1960) dir by Stanley Kubrick
Badlands (1973), dir by Terrence Malick
Night of the Living Dead (1968), George A. Romero
- J. Edgar (2011), Clint Eastwood – Concerns a very complicated man and the way history remembers him, and by extension all men. DiCaprio is very good in the lead role and the old man makeup does not annoy as much as usual. The ending features a twist of sorts, which features a really clever way of addressing memory and how one recalls their own achievements. A fantastic film.
- Young Adult (2011), Jason Reitman – This is a very dark film, almost like a black comedy sans comedy. A great script sees Diablo Cody showcasing the writing chops that gained her so much recognition for Juno. Charlize Theron is very good as a troubled woman looking to recapture something from her past. Patton Oswald is equally exceptional, their relationship is like no other you will see onscreen this year.
- Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (2012), Timur Bekmambetov – My expectations for this were so low as to be non-existent. But it impressed, well at least for the first hour or so. Sorta ran out of steam after that. It looks cool, I thought the 3D really popped in this one. The whole film is built on some pretty solid characterisation which helps too. Despite the unimpressive looking vampires and battles, this is still a pleasant surprise.
- Headhunters (2011), Morten Tyldum – The latest off the Scandinavian thriller production line comes courtesy of author Jo Nesbo. This was really interesting, truly unique in terms of both tone and character motivation. There is no hero, barely even an antihero, at least until the final quarter where these crystallise. A very interesting thriller with an extremely satisfying community.
- Haywire (2011), Steven Soderbergh – A cracking action flick, set in beautifully shot locales by Soderbergh. Looks awesomely slick, and has some really nice pacing. More artistic than is standard, with cool use of music and black & white. There are some really effective looking MMA inspired action sequences to balance things out. Despite a not entirely satisfying storyline, the awesome cast ensures this is worth checking out.
- Cosmopolis (2012), David Cronenberg – An examination of the capitalist ails of society presented in an original and episodic way. The film only falls down when it lingers in the last half hour, but an incredible final scene makes up for that. Robert Pattinson is brilliant as a young, isolated multi-billionaire in search of a haircut whilst Cronenberg shoots most of the film in surrealist close-ups. A real adaptation with much of Don DeLillo’s source novel present. Many found this too oblique dialogue heavy, but I think this is a clever, engaging examination of the film’s chosen themes.
- V For Vendetta (2006), James McTeigue – A singularly original, very British graphic novel adaptation. An awesome cast of British performers support the excellent lead turns from Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving. The story is in the classical dystopian mould, concerning manipulation, the repression of minorities and role of the police in society. There is also a cool structural countdown, making this a film which knows how to build to a crescendo perfectly.
- The Sapphires (2012), Wayne Blair – The best thing about this is how it subtly weaves in issues such as the stolen generation, Aboriginal purity and the Vietnam War into the storyline, without beating you over the head with them. The film’s storyline is inspired by a forgotten piece of Australia History. Chris O’Dowd is utterly magnificent and the four band members are all really well brought to life, with Jessica Mauboy proving she has acting chops to go along with her singing ones. A rousing and well made tale.
- The King is Dead (2012), Rolf de Heer – Man this is a dark film. Reminds me of a British era Hitchcock thriller… but you know, made 80 years later in Adelaide. A very suburban nightmare, a young couple buy a home next to the neighbours from hell. In what follows they attempt, not always successfully, to do what most would only ever think in order to solve the problem.
- Ted (2012), Seth McFarlane – It is turning out to be a good year for comedy. This is a simple narrative, delivered through a firecracker script. Crass, extremely so at times, but even those parts make you laugh because of the charm with which it is all brought to life. The character of Ted looks phenomenal, he is a remarkable technical achievement. Jeff Winger in a smarmy supporting role and a wonderful teddy bear vs Mark Wahlberg fight scene round out the awesomeness.
- The Campaign (2012), Jay Roach – This is pretty standard Will Ferrell fare. I’m a fan of his and this got me to laugh a fair bit. Despite being concerned with politics, there is nothing particularly cutting here. It’s all standard sex and Will Ferrell being bitten by a rattle snake jokes (the latter I found hilarious for some reason). Despite a short running time, it lags toward the end. If you have seen any Will Ferrell film, you will probably know what to expect with this.
- Bernie (2011), Richard Linklater – I haven’t seen a film like this all year. Actually I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film like this. Tale of an assistant undertaker in a small town who befriends a widow and what happens when he feels increasingly imprisoned by her. Jack Black is in career best form with an awards-worthy turn. Matthew McConaughey and Shirley MacLaine offer sterling support. The true genius here is the usually tired mockumentary being reinvigorated by using real townsfolk. Their raw, real interviews add a real layer of depth to this darkly comic film which leaves you thinking long after it has finished. Make sure you stay for the credits.
- Community: Season 1 (2009), Dan Harmon – I’ve generally avoided TV comedy. But this is a fantastic, clever show. A brilliant cast of comedy characters and scripting that gets more consistently hilarious as the season wears on. Some side splitting moments – Troy and Abed’s Spanish rap for example. Abed’s constant stream of self knowing pop-culture references also help to make this extremely fun viewing.
- The Bourne Identity (2001), Doug Liman – Damon’s man who has lost his identity really made for a very different action hero. Cool, quick and realistic hand to hand combat scenes are fantastic to watch. The emotional and psychological depth that is here is a real point of difference to standard action fare.
Not Worth Watching:
Absolutely Nothing. A good month then.
If you only have time to watch one Bernie
Avoid at all costs Nothing – go and see it all.