Though he may be controversial as a political personality, there is no doubt that Clint Eastwood is a film icon: a winner of five Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, and numerous other accolades for his work as an actor, director, producer, and composer. Yet few critics have ventured to consider Eastwood's philosophical, ethical, and artistic agenda the way film scholar Sara Anson Vaux has in The Ethical Vision of Clint Eastwood.
Bridging popular film and theology, Vaux traces Eastwood's career from Spaghetti Westerns and Dirty Harry-style shoot-em-ups to more recent films such as Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, and Invictus. "Seen along a forty-year continuum," Vaux writes, "Eastwood's movies reveal stages in an unfolding moral ontology—a sense of being in the world. They become more sophisticated and nuanced in tone and narrative exploration even if the basic motifs—justice, confession, war and peace, the gathering, and the search for a perfect world—remain the same throughout his career."
Vaux is also quick to refuse the temptation of Christian scholars (or any scholars of a particular camp) to dig through art for validation—for "endorsements of a particular religious system." The film analysis in her book is far from it. In four sections (Westerns, mysteries, war movies, and healing narratives), Vaux peels back the surface of Eastwood's films so the reader can see all the humming parts within: reccurring themes, camera techniques, Hollywood tricks and archetypes, critical reception, the whole shebang—and adds it all up to tell the story of the moral worldview that Eastwood has brought into the living rooms of millions of moviegoers.
This is a book for film critics and movie lovers, Clint Eastwood buffs and academics alike—a film-writing delight.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
books | the ethical vision of clint eastwood
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