Tuesday, April 13, 2010

1992: Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood)

1992: Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood)

Such a stupid thing to say, but when I think about this one, I just think about an extremely well-made film.  Everything is top shelf -- the acting, the writing, the directing.

I know there is a critique of violence in this one and a certain moral position taken, but that doesn't really connect with me all that much. What really gets me here is its theme of friendship, the incredibly moving bond between Eastwood and Morgan Freeman.

Eastwood is so adult, so patient, so restrained that he stands out by not standing out.  He's carrying on a certain tradition of classical filmmaking, and the further we get away from the source, it's a wonder that a non post-modern work was able to gain this much attention.  A UFO, perhaps, but also craftsmanship of the highest order.  Quiet perfection, without all the bells and whistles.

Other contenders for 1992:  I still have some titles to see from this year.  These include: Alex Cox's Highway Patrolman, Eric Rohmer's A Tale of Winter, Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula, Christopher Munch's The Hours and Times, Terrence Davies' The Long Day Closes, and James Ivory's Howards End.  At some point, I'll need to revisit Robert Altman's The Player and Agnieszka Holland's Olivier Olivier as it's been too long since I've seen either of them to know where they'd place on this list.  From this year though, I really like Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives, Arnaud Desplechin's La Sentinelle, and Carl Franklin's One False Move.  I love Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant. And my closest runner-up is David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.

3/21/11 I watched Robert Altman's The Player.  Messy, in typical Altman fashion, and as incisive as it might be on Hollywood, at times it suffers from feeling so insular and claustrophobic.  Still it's one of our best ever exposes on the movie business, and much of the casting is spot-on.  

8/29/11 I watched James Ivory's Howards End.  Victorian tragedy lively rendered.  Full of deception and compromise, Ivory does extremely well with actors, music, and locations.  I'm just a bit wary of his world view, a sort of chic bleakness, if you will.  

6/20/16 I watched Eric Rohmer's A Tale of Winter.  Rohmer again proves himself a master of his specific approach and style.  Like Bresson or Ozu, Rohmer is a director of transcendence.  Since his primary tools are reduction and refinement, when he decides in those rare moments to unleash it hits the viewer with a real force.  Like someone who whispers 95% of the time, when words are spoken at regular or louder volumes, the ear perks up and becomes unusually attentive.  Perhaps not Rohmer's finest but certainly another testament of his mastery and greatness.      

12/29/21 I watched Bill Duke's Deep Cover.  Interesting as a noir told more from the African-American perspective.  It is entertaining enough but for me it dwarfs in comparison to other films from the period like King of New York and Heat.


  1. UNFORGIVEN is pretty much a no-brainer for best of this year but I would certainly rank THE PLAYER and TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME right up there.

    I'm not a huge western fan but Eastwood's film is certainly one of the best of the genre and a brutal meditation on the nature of violence.

  2. JD, well put, "a brutal meditation on the nature of violence."

    Always great to hear from you. Thanks so much, JD!

  3. Jeffrey, for me Eastwood's greatest film is LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, though I will of course admit that UNFORGIVEN is one of his best, and a more than worthy choice for this year. You are right to point to its deft filmmaking artistry down the line, and hence that's really the bottom line. It would also make any truly representative western list in a lofty position too.

    My own #1 choice for this year was a recent revelation after I watched it a second time. The previous #1, HOWARDS END, is still a masterwork, but for me it is now edged out by another towering work, by British director Terrence Davies.

    My Own #1 Film of 1992:

    The Long Day Closes (Davies; UK)


    Howards End (Ivory; USA/UK)
    Olivier Oliver (Agnieska Holland; France)
    Baraka (Fricke; USA)
    Guelwaar (Sembene; Senegal)
    The Long Day Closes (Davies; UK)
    A River Runs Through It (Redford; USA)
    A Midnight Clear (Gordon; USA)
    The Story of Qiu Ju (Yimou; China)
    Unforgiven (Eastwood; USA)
    The Player (Altman; USA)
    Aladdin (Muska; USA)
    Strictly Ballroom (Luhrmann; Australia)
    And Life Goes On (Kiarostami; Iran)
    The Crying Game (Jordan; UK/USA)
    Bram Stoker's Dracula (Coppola; USA)
    Glengarry Glen Ross (Foley; USA)
    Leolo (Lauzon; Canada)
    The Last Bolshevik (Marker; France)
    My Cousin Vinny (Lynn; USA)

  4. Sam, I definitely need to see your top two picks! They both sound fantastic.

    Thanks so much, Sam. Always great having you here!

  5. Jeffrey,
    We are agreement here."Unforgiven" and "Letters From Iwo Jima" are Eastwood's two greatest works. "The Player" was a close second.

    Best of the Rest
    Husbands and Wives
    Howard's End
    Glengarry Glen Ross
    Malcolm X
    Reservoir Dogs
    My Cousin Vinny
    Batman Returns
    Passion Fish

  6. John, I definitely look forward to seeing THE PLAYER again. It's been a long, long time since I've seen it.

    From your list, I like GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, MALCOLM X, RESERVOIR DOGS, MY COUSIN VINNY, and BATMAN RETURNS although all a little less than the ones I mention. PASSION FISH is one I still need to see.

    Thanks, John. Always great to hear from you!

  7. Well I couldn't agree with you more Jeffrey in regards to Unforgiven being just an enormously well constructed work. I count it as the best thing Eastwood has done both behind the camera and in front of it, and it's probably the last great Western to come out of Hollywood; a cerebral, haunting masterpiece.

    My favorite for this year is your runner-up, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, one of my very favorite Lynch films. I love how it presents a cold, utterly Lynchian view of the charming, idiosyncratic world that was shown on television. It is just super-charged, invigorated film making.

    Other I love from this year would be Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant, Neil Jordan's The Crying Game, Glassman's Visions of Light, and Carl Franklin's One False Move.

  8. Drew, great stuff! I love what you say about UNFORGIVEN, "a cerebral, haunting masterpiece." And I love what you say about TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME, "...it is just super-charged, invigorated film making."

    I should have had ONE FALSE MOVE on my list above and will add it now. I like it very much!

    Thanks, Drew. Always great to hear from you!

  9. Drew - There was one other great western still to come, but I hear what you're saying! (LOL)

    Jeffrey, we are in completely agreement here. I rank Unforgiven at either #1 or #2 in my all-time favorite westerns, depending on which film I watched most recently - UNFORGIVEN or RIO BRAVO. What is so fascinating to me is, as you point out, the relationship between Will and Ned, particularly in how they collectively try to come to terms with their past personalities. It is incredibly fascinating to me to see Eastwood directly confront the persona that his name was built on - the remorseless gunfighter - and essentially show the other side of that coin.

    My first runner up is Michael Mann's THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, which I love. Other favorites are Reservoir Dogs (Tarantino), Glengarry Glen Ross (Foley), My Cousin Vinny (Lynn), Hard Boiled (Woo), The Player (Altman), and Dracula (Coppola). All in all, a really strong year for me.

  10. Like everyone else Unforgiven is my number one of 1992. It is my favorite western of the last 25 years. Only The Assassination Of Jesse James breaths the same rarified air as this Eastwood classic. I would say this and Mystic River are my favorite films by C.E..........M.Roca

  11. Jeffrey, 1992 was an unusually good year for pop cinema. A lot of Hollywood product really worked that year. I even like the likes of A League of Their Own, A Few Good Men and Far And Away. There are also those brilliant amalgams of pop art: Batman Returns, Bram Stoker's Dracula and Last of the Mohicans. But Unforgiven looms over them all. For me it's between that and Josey Wales for Eastwood's best film. Howard's End and The Bad Lieutenant are my runners-up -- that's what kind of year it was.

  12. I'm a huge western guy, it's my favorite genre, and I do like Unforgiven quite a lot, although my favorite Eastwood movie is actually Mystic River, which I think is just an incredible film. For '92, though, I'd probably put Twin Peaks ahead of it, and Dracula ahead of either by quite a lot. It's my favorite Coppola film, and one of my favorite American films of the nineties. It's beautiful stuff.

  13. Dave, so well put when it comes to UNFORGIVEN! I knew you were a huge fan, and you articulate it so well.

    I like HARD BOILED although just a little less than the ones I mentioned.

    Thanks, Dave. Always awesome to have you here!

  14. M Roca, great to hear from you! I still need to see the Dominik film you reference. But we're definitely on the same page with UNFORGIVEN.

    Thanks! Always great to have you here.

  15. Samuel, well put!

    I like MOHICANS although just a little less than the ones I mentioned. And I still need to see FAR AND AWAY and revisit A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN and A FEW GOOD MEN as it's been forever since I've seen either of them.

    Thanks, Samuel. Always great to have you here!

  16. Wow, Doniphon, okay now I really want to see the Coppola. It's one that I just never caught for some strange reason. But I'll do something about that soon.

    Thanks, Doniphon. Always great having you here!

  17. Surviving Desire is pretty much a masterpiece from Hartley despite its limited run time. This has heart, passion, emotion and poetry.

  18. I actually don't know that I've ever seen Surviving Desire. I need to run it down soon!

  19. It might be his best work for me. watched it couple of times this year last of which was a few days ago. More stripped back feel, interaction of characters at its best along with his intelligent use of books/words/language. No scene is overlong or too short or muddled. His vision is clear and painfuly accurate of the effects of lust,Desire,etc. His direction is on point despite its minimalist nature, with some great techniques on show here and there.

    I see there is a London retrospective of his early works. From his debut to Henry Fool minus the short films. Good to see him get some exposure. May even go and watch a few, never seen his work in the cinema so this would be a great opportunity as I thought i would never get

  20. Yeah I actually watched The Unbelievable Truth over the weekend and loved it. I had not seen it, even though I thought I had. It now ranks up there for me up there with Trust. It's an incredible debut film.

    I too would love to see Hartley's work on the big screen. Sounds like an amazing treat!