Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Clint, more Clint and back to the Southern Wild - Reviews #151

Dearest reader,

I haven't got around to that other Dardenne brothers film just yet, but I have watched a documentary about a chimp, a horror-mystery starring Joan Blondell and a lot of movies featuring Clint Eastwood. I hope that this in some way compensates.

Respectfully yours,


Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin, 2012)

"For the animals that didn’t have a daddy to put them on the boat, the end of the world already happened. They’re down below, trying to breathe through water."

What a stunning, dreamlike film this is, and what a beautiful, credible and unique performance lies at its centre, courtesy of the then six-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, whose Hushpuppy is one of the great characters of recent decades. On second viewing, Beasts' many wondrous strengths seem greater, its few shortcomings slighter and its plotting more cohesive ("I wanna be cohesive") than at first glance.

The story sees Wallis's tiny titan facing down flooding, fire and famishment – while dealing with the busted remnants of her family – as the beasts of the title course towards her slum area, trampling all in their wake. These fearsome creatures, unleashed when Hushpuppy knocks her seriously ill father to the ground, almost certainly exist only in her mind, and – depending on your point of view – represent either rampaging global warming, the enormity of death or, to my mind, the need to "fix what was broken": her relationship with her impulsive, troubled but loving father (the excellent Dwight Henry) – and perhaps her 'gator-eating mother too.

Beasts is remarkable in every way: stunning to look at, full of jaw-droppingly lyrical dialogue and blessed with a triumphant, eminently hummable Cajun soundtrack. Lit by a multitude of brilliant sequences that seem to come out of nowhere, but don't, and dominated by Wallis's heroics (including some excellent screaming), it packs an emotional punch like nothing else I've seen in years. (4)

See also: My original review of the film is here.


Project Nim (James Marsh, 2011) - Project Nim is like Au hasard Balthazar, as an innocent creature is tossed around by the whims of humans, only it's all real and its hero isn't a doleful donkey but a chimp who smokes weed. Nim is wrenched from his mother at birth and adopted by an annoying hippy, who breastfeeds him for two years. It's all part of a plan, put in place by a Columbia professor, to see whether a chimp - raised as a human - can be taught to construct sentences in sign language. But personal conflicts and simmering jealousies throw the (questionable) venture into disarray, and Nim is variously abused, disorientated and admonished for his animalistic behaviour, as he passes through the hands of various handlers - many of them well-meaning and most still moved to tears by his plight - only for events to take a truly chilling turn.

It's an absolutely fascinating, remarkable story that's fairly well told. Marsh mixes reams of excellent archive footage with forthright, often insightful interviews, while introducing a great gimmick, central to our understanding of the film, in which the signing between Nim and his handlers is presented in subtitles. I do feel, though, that the film is hampered by focusing so tightly on Nim's life. It's a bold decision by the filmmaker, presumably informed by the idea that Nim's problems were caused by treating him in a human way, not a humane way, and failing to acknowledge how events were affecting him, a mistake the film is keen to avoid.

While we hear a lot about how Nim must have been feeling, complete with close-ups of his face - which is expressive, but perhaps not enough to sustain this approach - we don't get enough of an insight into the back-stories of the professor, Nim's adopted mother or the various students, doctors and philanthropists who come in and out of the chimp's life, whether they're providing moments of comfort and escape, encouraging him to try cannabis, or dragging him to the depths of despair. It means that we're asked to view the many shocking and alarming things that happen without proper context. You could argue that context is irrelevant when you're dealing with a project this misguided, or something as horrific as the Lemsip centre, but I think the wider picture is essential to our understanding of the story.

There's also a certain vagueness in some of the sequences near the beginning, coupled with imprecise pacing, though this is offset by later set-pieces that are variously affecting (aww, Nim's hugging a cat), amusing (no Nim, don't hump the cat) and utterly chilling, including one of the most upsetting 10-minute chunks I've ever encountered. And I've seen Blues Brothers 2000. So while it's an imperfect film, it's also a very interesting, compelling one, with a sometimes overpowering emotional charge. Project Nim, not Blues Brothers 2000, which is a terrible sequel in which Dan Aykroyd turns into a zombie.

Of course we don't hear from Nim himself, aside from various whoops and clapping noises, but if he could speak, I know that he would say, "Nim, hug, banana, play, banana." (3)


You'll Never Get Rich (William A. Seiter, 1941) - "Exciting loveliness and rhythm in a star-spangled army musical!", promises the tagline. Astaire's first film with his favourite movie dance partner, Rita Hayworth, is an ever-underrated trifle blessed with some astonishing hoofing. She said later that her two movies with Fred were the only "jewels" in her career, proper prestige productions that cleaned up at the box-office. He plays a dance director who gets entangled in philandering boss Robert Benchley's web of lies, jettisoning Hayworth's affections due to a misunderstanding over a diamond bracelet, but finds a way out of the frying pan thanks to the draft board, resulting in various in-the-Army-now shenanigans.

The story is silly and disjointed, and the humour is variable - one-joke comic relief Cliff Nazarro briefly becomes the star of the film to entirely tiresome ends - but there's a pleasingly irreverent tone, the leads are in peak form, and much of the dancing has to be seen to be believed. The two best routines are genuinely unusual, with Fred tapping explosively in a guard house to jazz and blues numbers played by an African-American group called the Four Tones. There's also a brief but brilliant rehearsal dance representing the stars' first collaboration on screen, a handful of lively propagandist numbers and a Latino-tinged routine set to Cole Porter's devastating So Near and Yet So Far. Hayworth is also one good-looking lady, but so might you be if you'd undergone a beautifying process that included having your hairline altered (I often wonder if that intensive programme of electrolysis led to her early-onset Alzheimer's).

In the back catalogue of cinema's greatest ever dancer, this isn't a classic to rank alongside Top Hat, Broadway Melody of 1940 or The Band Wagon, but it's still a joy to behold, the genuine care that went into it visible right from the clever, inventive credits sequence. "Exciting loveliness" indeed. (3.5)


Miss Pinkerton (Lloyd Bacon, 1932) - A static, muddled Old Dark House rehash that crams an awful lot of confusing plot and awkward pauses into its 65 minutes. If you want to see Joan Blondell dressed as a nurse, you won't be disappointed, and her bright, brassy performance does provide a sprinkle of Golden Age gold dust, but it's held captive in a slow and unsatisfying mystery given the usual perfunctory treatment by one of Warner's least creative directors. Bacon throws in a couple of Expressionistic shots he's lifted from Nosferatu, but does nothing to quicken the action or make the story clearer. George Brent's detective seems overly preoccupied with how handsome his number one suspect is. (2)

See also: This is in Vol 5 of the magnificent Forbidden Hollywood series, along with Hard to Handle.


And, of course, the rebranded ClintFest '13 (check out that upper-case 'F') has been continuing apace:

The Enforcer (James Fargo, 1976) - The third in the Dirty Barry series lands Clint with a female partner (Tyne Daly), who carries a fucking handbag everywhere and runs about one mile an hour (13.5 in her gym shorts, my arse). It's as deep as a puddle, as credible as a cartoon and as stupid as open day at Idiot World, but it's incredibly entertaining, building to a climax involving Alcatraz and a rocket-launcher. "Marvellous." (3)


Sudden Impact (Clint Eastwood, 1983)
- This unbelievably nasty fourth outing for Dirty Barry makes the original look like Dixon of Dock Green. San Francisco's growliest man is sent out to a small town after annoying the mob, where he ends up tangling with a rape victim (Sondra Locke) who's murdering her attackers one by one. The first half is like a compilation of 10 Dirty Barry movies, with only the bits where he crosses the line and then gets bawled out left in. The only recourse to excessive unpleasantness is the sickening rape scene, but that's probably as it should be. Clint's earlier vehicles tend to treat the subject (which turns up as a plot device with alarming regularity) far too lightly, even allowing his anti-hero in High Plains Drifter to rape someone and then joke about it. Here, the sequence is virtually unwatchable, which, even if the treatment is gothically sensationalist, seems a step forward. But there's absolutely no justification for flashing back to it a further four times in the film's second half. Presumably it's meant to hammer home to Clint's more neanderthalic fans that this time we're on the side of a murderer/rape victim/woman, but surely even they could remember back to when the film showed it half an hour ago.

Though the film's first hour has no narrative coherence, features the worst line of dialogue of all time ("Call D'Ambrosia in the DA's office - ask him if coffee is psychic") and includes a scene in which Clint drives around with his car on fire, it's indecently fun. What follows is just horrific. Who enjoys watching a woman being raped, punched repeatedly in the face, and then faced with being raped again? There's a stunning shot near the close, when Barry arrives at a closed-down fairground like a gunslinger at high noon, silhouetted in the night by vivid white light, and Lalo Schifrin pipes up with a super, noir-tinged theme every time we head for Locke's house, but such concessions to class offer scant consolation in a quite hideously misjudged second half. For what it's worth, the performances are a mixed bag. I couldn't tell if Audrie Neenan was good, because her character made me feel too ill, and Pat Hingle was absolutely terrible as the small-town chief (he really needs to take bigger breaths before talking), but Clint and Locke always work quite well together and Wendell Wellman offers an interesting portrait of a supposedly reformed character who still gets shot in the head. And also the balls. (2)


Pale Rider (Clint Eastwood, 1985)
- A grizzled mystery man (Flint Lockwood) saves a homesteader (Michael Moriarty) from a shellacking at the hands of a gold tycoon's hired goons, and becomes a symbol of hope to the community of brutalised miners, while sending Moriarty's fiancee (Carrie Snodgress) and her 14-year-old daughter wild with lust. If Clint's High Plains Drifter was a delirious subversion of the "outsider hero" seen in such films as Shane, then this is basically just a remake of Shane, right down to the kid yelling "Come back! We love you!" at the close, an act of outlandish thievery that frankly amounts to taking the piss. There's also a slight lack of dramatic tension that comes with having a hero who can teleport. Still, it's a solid, entertaining allegorical Western - Clint's "preacher" being a messenger of death sent from God - that boasts some truly iconic imagery, particularly during its climactic shoot-out, and a pair of very good performances from Clint East-woooooood and his new best mate. A young, svelte Chris Penn turns up as a bad guy, looking eerily like his Argentinean brother Sean. (3)


Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Michael Cimino, 1974) - Michael Cimino's attempt to make a '70s action movie in the New Hollywood style is a memorable, fascinating and beautifully-acted existential buddy flick that gets rather sidetracked by its second-half heist. The opening is as good as any you'll ever see, as a Brylcreemed preacher (Clint Eastwood) is forced to flee for his life across a wheatfield, while across town a grinning tearaway (Jeff Bridges) with a possible wooden leg jacks a car from a dealership. They're about to collide - literally - sparking an unlikely, truly affecting friendship that will get them laid, shot at and beaten, before they join forces with the two hoods on their trail (George Kennedy and the quite brilliant Geoffrey Lewis).

It's then that the film, an astonishing piece of Americana, full of fluttering flags and vast, arid landscapes, and met by an extraordinary theme song from Paul Williams (who wrote the Bugsy Malone score), turns into a Hot Rock-ish heist film: above par for the genre, but nothing like as interesting or unusual as the movie we were watching. Almost fatally, the focus shifts from the smiling, weary Eastwood and the young friend who "came along 10 years too late" and gives too much screen-time to the blustering Kennedy, diluting the film's power by simply forgetting its strong suit. You can shout "What about The Big Lebowski?" all you want, but I've found that Bridges is usually the best thing in a bad film or the worst thing in a great film. Here he's just brilliant, and it isn't his fault that the movie's steering goes awry, or demands that he dress up as a woman. While that's not very entertaining, it's no slight on her to say that he looks a bit like Laura Dern.

Then, when the film seems to have died out in a fit of cross-dressing and a flurry of skidding motorcyclists, it crawls out of the wreckage, towards a magnificent, dreamlike coda that leaves you slack-jawed in amazement. Cimino straddled two worlds, having co-written the second Dirty Harry film and gone on later, of course, to make The Deer Hunter and Heaven's Gate. This, his debut behind the camera, doesn't sustain its fusion of the mainstream, the modern and the avant garde as successfully as genre-fucks like Charley Varrick, Fat City or Electra Glide in Blue, but at its best it's gobsmacking: Williams on the soundtrack, a car on the endless highway and Eastwood at the wheel, looking dead ahead, a canvas for our own emotions, like a John Ford hero. (3)


Thanks for reading.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Prison, presidents and plains, as Clintfest continues - Reviews #150

Coming up in this very special* 150th reviews collection: all the latest from behind the scenes at Clintfest '13 - a private film festival held in my room during which I watch some Clint Eastwood films - which really kicked into gear this past week. Plus, as promised, a Dardennes brothers movie. I have another from LoveFilm to watch, The Son, so I'll be reviewing that next time, along with more Clint than you could shake a stick at. Or would care to.

In the Line of Fire (Wolfgang Petersen, 1993) - An ageing secret service agent (Clint Eastwood), still haunted by that day in Dallas in 1963, gets drawn into a deadly duel with elusive, lilting-voiced psychopath John Malkovich in this pulsating, nerve-shredding thriller. Jeff Maguire's script - based on research by producer Jeff Apple - sticks closely to rigid screenwriting rules: as well as the tragedy in the hero's past, both he and his nemesis have idiosyncratic hobbies; but it makes sense that a secret service agent who failed that day would never get over it, that this melancholic soul would find escape in tinkling the ivories, and that a metciulous DIY terrorist such as Malkovich's would delight in model-making. And crucially such traits augment, rather than replace, the human characteristics required to pull you into a story of this kind. The hero and the man who claims to be so very much like him are both believable, persuasive creations, heightened and unforgettable though they are. Just as their characters are perfectly matched, so are their performances. Malkovich's is a study in effete, silky-tongued malevolence, dripping with danger, Eastwood's is as craggy as you'd expect, but sensitive with it, and not without a gentle sense of humour - light years away from the macho sardonism he peddled in those '60s and '70s vehicles.

There are a couple of minor flaws in the story: there should really be a scene with Eastwood and the family of a fallen comrade - without it he seems a touch selfish - and I'm not sure the climactic reveal, as exciting as it is, quite makes sense, though that's perhaps because I could spot a Malkovich literally anywhere. Such quibbling aside, it's a sensational film, and along with The Fugitive - for which Tommy Lee Jones beat Malkovich to an Oscar - perhaps the best popcorn flick of the '90s. Its action scenes are clever, well-paced and have a sense of genuine peril and purpose, but the film is also bracingly intelligent and unexpectedly thoughtful, with some fascinating, off-beam polemicising from its villain about Kennedy, John Wilkes Booth and the legitimacy of self-sacrifice, and a collection of real characters who behave in believable ways, at least in the context of a summer crowd-pleaser. These virtues, within an American blockbuster of the period, shimmer like an oasis in the desert, and it all goes to show what can be done when you take an unimpeachable idea, build on it cleverly, cast it perfectly and then hand over the reins to someone like Das Boot director Wolfgang Petersen, a filmmaker who knows when to be patient, when to inject a breathless urgency into the narrative and when to linger on a close-up of an old man nodding appreciatively at Rene Russo's bum. An Ennio Morricone score always helps too, of course. (4)


High Plains Drifter (Clint Eastwood, 1973) - High Plains Drifter is like an evil melding of High Noon, Shane and The Magnificent Seven, as a nameless gunslinger arrives in a mining town, where he's hired to protect the self-serving residents from three vengeful outlaws, only to prove something of a problem himself. It's a claustrophobic, brutal, brilliantly-directed Western - amazingly Clint's first behind the camera - with a powerful plot that's dusted with supernatural overtones and laced with unexpected, extremely funny comic touches. The opening sequence is a classic of the genre, Eastwood instantly drawing us in to this convincing Western world and borrowing from his mentor, Sergio Leone, as he builds tension through the repetition and steady escalation of everyday sounds: his horse's whimpering and heavy footsteps building to a deafening crescendo. There's also a fantastic shot in the first bar scene in which Eastwood slowly lifts his head, the brim of his hat rising to reveal the townsfolk nervously waiting to see what happens next.

The star's performance is superb, playing a laconic, sardonic anti-hero who shoots deadly straight (but can't paint a sign to save his life), and there are strong supporting characterisations from little person Billy Curtis (a veteran of The Terror of Tiny Town) and Verna Bloom, who brings sensitivity and a quiet authority to a cliched part that reminded me - in both role and execution - of Wendy Hiller's heroics in Outcast of the Islands. And while perhaps the intriguing story shows its hand a little too early, my only real complaint is that a subplot featuring Marianna Hill takes rape so shockingly lightly - going as far as to suggest that her character is enjoying the experience. There's an unfortunate thread running through these testosterone-heavy '60s and '70s Eastwood vehicles, too many of which belittle sexual assault and mine the subject of rape for misguided attempts at wry humour. Aside from the more troubling moral implications of feeding that message to an audience, it simply makes it nigh on impossible to side with Eastwood's anti-hero, no matters how many jars of sweets he gives to cute Native American kids (it's two, in case you were wondering). That issue aside, it's a very interesting, extremely entertaining film, brought to the screen with no small sense of skill, imagination and style. (3.5)


Escape from Alcatraz (Don Siegel, 1979) - An everyman con and multiple prison escapee (Clint Eastwood) is sent to the supposedly impregnable island prison of Alcatraz, where he bonds with some well-realised inmates, before plotting to vamoose alongside his nervy next-door neighbour and a couple of interchangeable ciphers.

It's a low-key, meticulously-detailed, often unbearably tense telling of a true story that benefits from solid performances and some virtuoso direction in its second half. But it's also slightly cliched, lacks the brutality and realism of The Big House (made almost 50 years before) and Siegel's Riot in Cell Block 11, and is at times just too confusing to work as effectively as it should. In a cleverly-conceived opening, we see the levels of security surrounding the prison, but it isn't always clear during the finale where the characters are and what obstacles they still have to overcome. If such disorientation were intentional and well-utilised, it could add to the suspense, but as it isn't, it sometimes detracts.

Fittingly, the acting from the central inmates is as solid as a rock, even when the stark process of dehumanisation that begins so promisingly loses much of its momentum. Yes, the prison's fascist clampbown on news from the outside and the lifeline of creativity is chilling, but that sense of danger and despair ebbs away as the movie progresses, replacing such heightened sadism with some unconvincing symbolism about a flower head. Far more effective is the simple explosion of colour that we see just outside the prison walls, that lush green flourishing of nature lying merely metres away from the bleached concrete that dominates the inmates' unforgiving daily lives, though it's never seen nor sensed. Some of these poor, put-upon souls probably do deserve to be inside, though, going by the law of averages, which isn't something that the film regards as even worthy of discussion, painting a black-and-white portrait of institutional cruelty that is neither complex enough to act as social commentary nor convincing enough to load its climax with the requisite dramatic charge, beyond the nauseating, stomach-tightening tension that comes with someone simply being somewhere they shouldn't be, doing something they shouldn't (the best comparison I can offer is when I was 10 and I kept a copy of the Daily Sport in a biscuit tin).

Eastwood's character is more of a people person than his usual angry mavericks, allowing for some effective, offbeat and understated moments of pathos, particularly opposite Paul Benjamin, the character actor who bequeathed that broken-down old shack to Peter Dinklage in The Station Agent. The star's unshowy turn forms part of a cohesive, complementary unit that just about manages to avoid being overturned by Patrick McGoohan and Bruce M Fischer's one-dimensional villains: one of whom wants to break Clint's spirit and the other of whom wants to brea- well, wants to become better acquainted with him. And his bottom. Danny Glover also turns up briefly, in his first film, to call Clint the n-word. They're all rather overshadowed, though, by an awesome little spaghetti-eating mouse who hangs around with a personable old lag, acting as his messenger, shower companion and confidante. I like Melvyn Douglas as much as the next man - probably a whole lot more - but let's just say he was lucky to get the Best Supporting Actor gong that year.

While Siegel and his screenwriters could undoubtedly have made the escape attempt a little clearer, the director does hit a dizzying pitch for those scenes, aided by Bruce Surtees' flashy (and flashing) cinematography - saturated with rich red light - and a clanging, discordant score by Jerry Fielding that mirrors its characters' nervousness and desperation, while playing on the endless chipping, booting and shuffling necessary to facilitate their departure. There's also a fantastic, bravura moment in which a screw's hand stretches out for the dummy in Eastwood's bed, and time stands still, before the film provides the mother of all reveals.

Escape from Alcatraz is no classic - neglecting to contextualise its characters' plight beyond stock situations, failing to capture the unrelentingly grim, intensely inhumane atmosphere inside the prison, and jeopardising the success of its titular set-piece through a slight muddiness of method - but it's decent entertainment, with some nice touches in both the matter-of-fact performances and Siegel's increasingly frenetic handling. (3)


Rosetta (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 1999) - This typically chucklesome romp from the Dardenne brothers concerns a cripplingly poor, emotionally combustible 16-year-old girl (Émilie Dequenne) striving to secure and then hold on to a permanent job, while looking out for her unspeaking, alcoholic, promiscuous mother. Rosetta makes friends with a waffle chef around her age, who sees past her fierce facade and allows a chink of light to shine into her life, only for her intense desperation to guttingly intervene. This largely plotless film may be excessively mundane, around half of it seemingly consisting of Dequenne taking her boots on and off, but it's blessed with an invigoratingly natural, unpretentious central performance - spotlighted by the Dardennes' fondness for handheld close-ups - has two absolutely unforgettable sequences set in and around a muddy lake, and ends in genuinely life-affirming fashion. Its emotional clarity and rich sense of character will endure in the heart and mind, long after the endless welly footage has faded from the memory. (3.5, as I like wellies)

See also: The Dardennes brothers' latest, The Kid with a Bike, is a masterpiece.

*may not be very special

Friday, 1 March 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild, Ann Sothern's daughter and Clintfest '13 - Reviews #149

Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin, 2012) - A young girl named Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) - living in a slum area called The Bathtub - faces down flooding, her father's ill-health, and six fearsome monsters she believes she has let into the world, in this dazzling slice of magical-realism. "I made the whole world get sick," she boasts bleakly in one of the deleted scenes. Kicking off with the best opening five I've seen in a long time (that firecracker run and that music - wow), Zeitlin plonks us into a vividly-realised universe, viewed through the eyes of a perfectly-drawn heroine who speaks in bold, Faulkneresque language that bridges the gap between wisdom and innocence. And who isn't averse to standing on a table, roaring and showing off her guns.

The story, which avoids convention at every turn, winds - like the film's overflowing river - through strange, at times almost hallucinatory encounters at a bar, a hospital and a floating stripclub without leaving us behind, building exponentially on the connection between father and daughter, and trading on the stark simplicity of its young star, who has the best voice in movies and gives the most entrancing performance by a child that I've seen in a decade. There are moments, at least on first viewing, where the film's rhythm seems slightly off, where this refreshingly original film - recalling the poetic African-American feature Killer of Sheep in its bracing rejection of formula - seems to falter for a minute or two, a scene outstaying its welcome or another leaning towards pretension, but it always drags it back, thanks to that script and that performance. It's one of those movies, those glorious one-of-a-kind movies, where the freshness of the concept, the scale of the ambition, and the virtues of acting and atmosphere overwhelm such trivial considerations as plot, pacing and possible posturing. A great film, in other words. (4)

See also: This leapfrogs A Star Is Born and The Kid with a Bike - wonderful movies both - to become my favourite film of the year so far.


These other two were the first films in Clintfest '13, happening exclusively at my house, in which I watch some of those Eastwood films I've taped off ITV4.

Magnum Force (Ted Post, 1973) - Dirty Harry returns for this slick but unexceptional sequel, written by John Milius and Michael Cimino, in which Clint's staggeringly trigger-happy cop hunts down a vigilante who's offing drug dealers, mobsters and pimps - much like the idea pitched by Sam Rockwell in Seven Psychopaths. It's a promising premise, but the potential to explore the morality of Callahan's own commitment to bloody violence is almost completely squandered. It isn't that the script doesn't want to engage with those ideas - that seems to be its raison d'etre - it's more that it doesn't know how, as it tries, and fails, to address the criticism directed at the fascist (though classic) original simply by having Clint murmur something reconciliatory about the system being broken, but it being the only one they have. As a code of ethics, and coming from a character who fucking loves shooting people, it's just too muddled to engage with, on either an intellectual or emotional level. The film also fetishes guns to an almost hysterical degree, allows its hero to foil a plane hijacking in his lunch hour, and is saddled with a tedious action climax that's extremely difficult to follow. Still, it is otherwise well-directed by TV veteran Ted Post, the basic story remains very entertaining - at least until a misjudged twist near the end - and a good cast helps, with Hal Holbrook showcasing his familiar persona as a patronising authority figure. (2.5)



Coogan's Bluff (Don Siegel, 1968) - Reactionary nonsense with Clint as a deputy sheriff from Arizona who turns up in New York to beat up hippies and women (though they started it). If you can get past the scene with all the rape jokes and the bit where he slaps around Tisha Sterling - and it is a struggle - it's a diverting enough piece of right-wing wish-fulfilment, with a lively bar fight, an agreeably arsey supporting performance from Lee J. Cobb, and a truly memorable one from Sterling - the daughter of '40s leading lady Ann Sothern - playing a voracious, bob-cutted counter-culture siren who uses sex both as a weapon and to make a living. There's also a sequence in which Clint goes to a nightclub and growls something fierce at a succession of boobs and same-sex couples, all to the tune of a phony, cod-psychedelic number called The Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel. Which is the name of the nightclub. Yes, really. It's not a great film, then - and its action climax is seriously boring - but it is a key credit in Eastwood's career, allowing him to make a seamless transition from Westerns like the Dollars Trilogy to present-day cop films such as Dirty Harry. Betty Field, who I usually enjoy, appears as a kind of crap Claire Trevor. (2.5)


Thanks for reading. Join me next time for some Dardenne Brothers-related fun, and the continuation of Clintest '13. It should be up some time next week.