RogerBW's Blog

Unforgiven 23 March 2022

1992 western, dir. and starring Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman: IMDb / allmovie. William Munny was a bad man, until his wife reformed him. But she's dead.

I saw this when it was released, and it was called a "revisionist Western" as though that were a new sort of thing. In practice of course the films that made Eastwood a star, For a Fistful of Dollars and so on, were just as much revisionist compared with the Code-compliant White Hats and Black Hats. But this was a Western about getting old. (Indeed, about Eastwood getting old; in the previous film of his I'd seen, 1988's The Dead Pool, he was still playing the action hero, if a middle-aged version.)

And things start off making it clear that it really wasn't that great back in the good old days, casually murdering people for reasons you can't even remember, but now there's a Good Cause and that's enough to come out of retirement for when combined with the promise of a bounty to help the failing farm.

(The Good Cause, a prostitute who's had her face slashed, is very much a background character; to Eastwood, directing and producing as well as starring, the important things in this world are all men, mostly old men. There's even an abandoned subplot: Delilah the prostitute offers herself to Munny, he turns her down, she assumes it's because of her face, and he explains that no, it's because he's loyal to his wife. In a later scene, she learns that his wife is dead. And then… nothing. There's no resolution to it.)

So this is a story about getting old that ends in an orgy of violence, then the man on the horse rides away… and that's the film I watched, and wasn't very impressed by, thirty years ago. But now I see it much more as a consideration of manliness: the Kid has all the surface meanness but falls apart when it counts, Ned may have the skills but is no longer mean, English Bob even more so, and Little Bill has the skills and is mean… but not as much so as William Munny. Munny takes back up his skills, and his meanness, and his whiskey bottle, and it's only when he does so thoroughly that he sees any success in terms of the narrative. (And the violence that prospers is not vengeance for a slashed woman, but for a murdered friend.)

"Hardworkin' boys that was foolish" are the same old "boys will be boys" who have always had excuses made for them; I am inclined to feel that anyone who invokes that phrase deserves to spend some time as a target of one of those "boys" rather than being one of the people they don't dare attack.

It's a beautiful film, and it's nice to see that (unlike many classic Westerns) the cameras can get in among the rocks. The score, by Lennie Niehaus, comes over as the sort of thing Mark Knopfler would do, with little relevance to what's on screen. This won four Oscars (but not the Big Four, as Eastwood missed out on Best Actor), but although I think I understand it better than I did it's not a film I could ever love.

Once more if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

Tags: film reviews

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Search
Archive
Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2022 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1