Eastwood, Clint: Director as Auteur

From the start, the brilliant career of Clint Eastwood, as mega movie star and major director,  was built on a contradiction.  As an actor, he tended to play anti-establishment, rebellious heroes, but they were contained in genre-oriented tales (often Westerns and actioners) of mainstream Hollywood cinema.

As director, he has espoused a quiet, calm but efficient approach, often allowing scenes to play at length (even if their pacing was slow).  He showed respect for his peers, both lead and supporting actors, allowing each to get his or her due screen time.

In the 1992 Unforgiven, a turning point in Eastwood’s career, for which he won the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars, he began to deconstruct and demythologize the self-interested and violent heroes that he had played (or directed) in the first two decades of his career.

Thematically, borrowing perhaps from the screen persona of John Wayne as an older actor, Eastwood often played widowers,  men who have lost their wives or their latest relationship and are now on their own.

Unforgiven opens and closes with the same image: a long shot of Eastwood’s Manny, shown in silhouette, at his wife’s graveside.