Clint Eastwood’s America
By Sam B. Girgus
Polity – £15.99
”His Bogart-like penchant for losers who function outside of society raises the question of the real meaning of winning and losing, succeeding and failing in corrupt, dishonest, and dysfunctional societies.”
Yes, I’d have to pretty much agree with all of the above, especially in relation to its succinct, descriptive analysis, of the continuing and ever prevalent work of Clint Eastwood. A most understated actor and director of such profound social awareness, it’s hard if not almost impossible, to find a recent comparison.
The above quote comes from the eighteenth page of this book’s Introduction, but one can stumble upon almost any page of Clint Eastwood’s America and find something that jumps out and makes one think – without any (remote) sense of trepidation whatsoever.
Not only of the actor himself; but America itself.
As Hunter Vaughan of Oakland University states: ”Girgus sharpens his ongoing scholarship on cinema and ethics with this thought-provoking analysis of Clint Eastwood, who has evolved into arguably the most conflicted and divisive American cinema icon, amd the ultimate symbol of what is best and worst about a national ideology and its film culture.”
In chapter five (Flags Of Our Fathers/Letters From Iwo Jima: History Lessons on Time and The Stranger), the author, Sam B. Gircus writes: ”Gaining from the experience of Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998), Eastwood begins Flags Of Our Fathers with a complexity that constitutes a form of self-reflection that eschews standard Hollywood direction for popular films and conventional Hollywood narrative styles. Such self-reflection elucidates truth-seeking processes and the problematic nature of truth in general in both historical films and works of fiction.”
What’s interesting here, is the rather wide, sociological aperture through which Gircus invites us – as both readers and film-goers – to ponder and investigate (perhaps further).
Moreove, the book’s 282 pages as a whole convey something of a wide aperture, simply because some of the dense, political depth articulated. Not only the ”truth-seeking processes” itself – which, unbeknown to many Americans, the ghastly Donald Trump in particular, is an alien concept – but ”complexity that constitutes a form of self-reflection.” The latter of which, has always been an elongated area of Eastwood’s work as a whole.
To be sure, what Woody Allen has done for the slightly dysfunctional Jewish New Yorker with a penchant for psycho-analysis, Eastwood has done for the existentialsit loner with a penchant for the truth: ””You don’t have to like incest to watch Hamlet. But it’s in the story” […]. Million Dollar Baby does not attempt to justify mercy killing. It does not make a general case for euthanasia under particular circumstances. Such readings misrecognise the ethical and moral achievement of the film. Million Dollar Baby makes an important case for the power of film art to dramatize complex ethical engagement” (Mo Cuishle: A New Religion In Million Dollar Baby).
To be sure, much of Eastwood’s directorial work, covers the ever widening gambit of life’s ever increasing fraught anthropological complexities – and this altogether excellent engagement of that very issue, accounts for Clint Eastwood’s America being an absolutely top-shout of a read.
So go ahead, make your day (punk), and get yourself a copy.