Clint Eastwood, Who He Wants To Be

Honoring the Man With No Name at Lincoln Center

Tipping its hat to a genius as opposed to a DJ, Bird marks the point that the filmmaker adds pretension to his repertoire, where Eastwood becomes an Indisputably Great Artist as opposed to a lovably scrappy one. Give or take Unforgiven, and with the arguable exception of Gran Torino, A Perfect World, and The Bridges of Madison County (transcendent melodramas all), the films that follow Bird don't have nearly the same loose, shaggy charm as, say, Bronco Billy—which, like Play Misty and Honkytonk Man, momentarily halts the main event to lay back and take in a gig. (Let's hear it for Merle Haggard, ladies and gentlemen!)

In his Billy review, Allen boldly issued a call that was answered eight years later when Bird graced the New York Film Festival. "Now, it's time to take [Eastwood] seriously not just as a popularist phenomenon, but as one of the most honest, influential personal filmmakers in the world today." That he is. But might he have been even more valuable before we city slickers went ahead and made his day?

In '71, while acting in Don Siegel's The Beguiled, Eastwood—as a warm-up for Misty—filmed "The Storyteller," a 12-minute documentary in which he attributes to his mentor the humble qualities that he himself would soon embody, at least until the big Bird carried him overseas. "No matter how well a story is written," he declares in voiceover, "it's still up to the director to bring it to life, to tell it with his own kind of magic in his own kind of medium—film."

Flailing huckster Bronco Billy
Warner Brothers/The Kobal Collection
Flailing huckster Bronco Billy
Eastwood in his directorial debut, Play Misty for Me
Universal/The Kobal Collection
Eastwood in his directorial debut, Play Misty for Me


The Complete Clint Eastwood
The Film Society of Lincoln Center
July 9 through 27
Walter Reade Theater

Though the "artist" that Eastwood is hard at work sketching now is no less a heavy than J. Edgar Hoover, "The Complete Clint Eastwood" reminds us that the DIY patriot cowboy was never stronger than when saluting the little guys—the carnies, pale riders, and honkytonk men.

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