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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dirty Harry revisited

Film review: Gran Torino

Walt Kowalski brought back old and glad boyhood memories.

I haven’t watched Clint Eastwood since Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, but boy, he can still do his stuff! Old and bent and hoarse and tired, at 78, he brought back a rush of delight as I remembered the days of Dirty Harry, The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, Where Eagles Dare, For a few dollars more, and even Every which way but loose.

Gran Torino (name of a Ford classic car, actually) was released worldwide in January this year. The disk was lying with me for a few months: I wish I had made time to watch it sooner.

You can read all the summaries and reviews on the Net, so I won’t bother telling the story here. Or even to write an exhaustive essay about why I liked the movie. This is just to say that I am happily amazed to see that all the old fire is still there, though he doesn’t do one whit to make himself look and sound a day younger than he is. He wheezes up stairs, spits blood in the washbasin, can’t pull heavy loads any more. But he stubbornly prefers living alone to living with grown children who don’t want him or in an old age home. He is nastily narrow-minded and racially prejudiced and foul-mouthed, yet a lot of people can’t help feeling there is a good man in there, struggling to come out… always has been. A decorated Korean-War veteran, he carries bitter memories of a horrid past. His guns are always close at hand. He dies heroically to save people he apparently cared so little for that he called them gooks to their faces. He doesn’t even fight the way he used to in his old movies: the heroics are of a far higher, understated order. And he goes, the old diehard atheist, with a ‘Hail Mary’ on his lips, leaving his house to the church because his wife would have liked it, and his beloved Gran Torino to the only friend he had found. As some people acknowledge, he was a man, to the last.

Mr. Amitabh Bachchan - with all due respect - still has to learn a great deal from geezers like Sean Connery and Eastwood. I remembered the Modesty Blaise story A few flowers for the colonel (wonder how many readers will even know what I am talking about!) And I remembered the line from The Old Man and the Sea: ‘A man can be destroyed but not defeated’. If Hemingway had been around, I think he would have begged Eastwood to play Santiago before he died.

Watch the movie.


Shilpi said...

This is a surprise and maybe an ache of one if not a grand one (absolutely no pun intended) - if one knows what I mean. But it was still worth logging onto the net at whatever-hour-it-is.

I haven't watched the movie as yet but have been wondering about it. I was reminded in a blast of the last Eastwood movie I saw while reading this post of yours - 'Million Dollar Baby' it was, and I loved every bit of it - right till the end even when I was blinking a lot....and I remember that famous liner (even though that's all I remember) from 'The Good, Bad, and Ugly', which I watched when I was 11 or 12 - "when you shoot, you shoot. Don't talk."

Marvelous review. Absolutely brilliant. Who knows how many lumps will be swallowed towards the end but of course I will have to watch the movie now. 'Destroyed but not defeated' - that is so pertinent. Some actors/people do go down all guns blazing....
Thank you.

Shilpi said...

"Modesty Blaise" was run as a comic strip, wasn't it? I'm quite sure though that I didn't read any of the Modesty Blaise books but I can almost swear that I remember watching animated versions when I was very young - who knows though. What is the line that you're talking about? I have no idea about 'A few flowers for the colonel'...

Nishant said...

Dear Sir,

I am glad you watched this movie. I watched it for a second time a month ago and I loved every bit just as much as I did when I'd watched it for the first time. And I am quite sure I can watch it several times without ever getting bored. Every small incident in the movie plays a role towards building the grand finale. He's an amazing actor but I think he is an even better director.
While we're discussing movies, I would greatly recommend 'The Wrestler'.
Nishant Kamath.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thanks for commenting, Nishant. Been quite some time!

And as for the tip, you know that I depend on old boys like you to get me the movies: I've grown too lazy to look for them myself. So I'll have to wait...

devdas said...

Since Suvro-da you enjoy quality movies, you will be thrilled to a see a multi-facted actor as Christoph Waltz who can speak 4 languages, french , german, italian and english fluently in the recent Quintin Tarantino film "Inglourious basterds" which is a must watch for you to see the SS, SD chief Hans Landa played by Waltz. I am sure you will enjoy this character and after seeing that 2 days back I am more and more thrilled by this man and his role.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Such tips are always welcome, Debasish, thanks a lot. I'll certainly look out for this movie.

Neel said...

I have not seen the movie. But always had been a fan of Clint Eastwood from the Dirty Harry series to the Western ones. But i am writing this not for the movie. You see I loved Modesty Blaise when she appeared in The Telegraph. It kindled a lot of memories. And in a curious way I reflected on the name of the blog. The word "Bemused" inherently encompasses a sense of detachment. But , ironically this is a facade behind which hides a sensitivity that one needs to think about to decipher. I think the character of Eastwood reflects the dichotomy that surrounds a person who has not yet compromised his values.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Dear 'Neel',
It is obvious that you have been reading my blogposts closely and with interest, and you are a person who thinks before writing comments - hence the sort who are both rare and most welcome. But do please let me know who you are: it makes me very uncomfortable dealing with people behind pseudonyms. If you don't wish to do so publicly, please at least do so to me via email: the i.d. is suvro.chatterjee@gmail.com