[1992] Unforgiven

Not much more can be said about Unforgiven; the film acts as a rightful tombstone for the death of a genre as non-homage, non-satire. Not much more can be said for director, writer, and actor Clint Eastwood, who, with the fresh-dirt Unforgiven brought to the Oscars in 1992, hyper-legitimized his place as both an actor and director almost 40 years into his career. Unforgiven is remarkable because of its simultaneous ultraviolent and restrained plot stems. Eastwood as Munny, a man with a character fog that neither lifts nor needs to, runs a cast of characters in circles as he cuts through both plot and character with such sharpness that as the last credit rolls across the screen, the audience is certain Eastwood is both the diameter and the circumference, and all points in and on the shape – “life.” Not much more can be said about Gene Hackman or Morgan Freeman or Richard Harris that has not already been said in essay or video format.

The Western genre is dead; long live the West. Continue reading

[1971] The French Connection

The French Connection was a real thing. I’m not going to re-edit the details here but know that in the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s smugglers trafficked more heroin than you can count from the Middle East through Western Europe and eventually through North America. Its rise and fall demonically haunts pre- and post-war Europe through its enormous involvement at all levels of corruption, from local informants and drug runners up through the highest echelons of government and other agency. It was a perfect combination of circumstance and trading one aesthetic and global crisis for another, lesser (?) one.

The French Connection took to dramatize and compartmentalize 40 years of serious drug trafficking into 2 hours of thrill, substance and action. William Friedkin’s dramatic distillation of decades of drugs helped to liven the pulse of filmmaking that beat so heavily from the late 1960s to the early 1970s. Much like the conflict for which the film was named, The French Connection took clever advantage of circumstance to help craft its message. The perfect combination of casting, direction, cinematography, special effects, production and source material together (among other factors) drove this movie to such heights as a political action thriller and an investigative crime drama, that to try to replicate it is almost impossible. Yet improbably, and mind-blowingly it’s probably the worst of the 4 movies to win Best Picture from 1969 to 1972. Continue reading