Reflection of the USA: Clint Eastwood turns 90 | Movies | DW

Reflection of the USA: Clint Eastwood turns 90 | Movies | KG

Perhaps no other American actor and director represents the United States as much as he does: Clint Eastwood, who was born on May 31, 1930 in San Francisco, stands for revolver cinema and vigilante justice, but also for fine art and self reflection. The best way to understand this giant of Hollywood is to focus on both sides.

Success on horseback and with the revolver on the street

The former American TV western star celebrated his breakthrough with roles in the European version of the genre, the Italian western by the Italian Sergio Leone: "For a handful of dollars" was the first big success of the long-standing actor with the striking face. The film was made in Europe in 1964 and was the remake of a Japanese film classic by Akira Kurosawa. An American filmed on the old continent with a director who in turn was inspired by Japanese cinema – that too can be interpreted as a sign. The role that Eastwood took over followed classic Hollywood heroes again.

Movie scene from Gunslinger in poncho, sitting for a handful of dollars, smoking and with a rifle (picture-alliance / United Archives / IFTN)

This is how his fans know him: armed, with cigarillo, cool – Eastwood in "For a Fistful of Dollars"

So there was a lot going on in this young career, which at the time was laborious and characterized by a few deep blows, and was anything but typical for a later Hollywood superstar. At first he was only a moderately successful television star, but he persisted. That sounds strange today, since this actor, director and multiple Oscar winner has long been known as an icon of US cinema.

Eastwood consistently expanded his career

He expanded his image of the cool but also brutal hero in the 1970s with the "Dirty Harry" films. And as an advocate of vigilante justice, gunmen and patriots, you are known to this day. A film like "American Sniper", staged by Eastwood in 2014, stands for a side of the American that often seems disturbing and strange from a European perspective. But Eastwood can do it differently. And that's where the "Clint Eastwood Mystery" begins. At some point in his career, this action star must have thought, that can't do everything, western and police film, hail of bullets and Indian hunting.

The "other" Eastwood was invented on two levels. In retrospect, this is still astonishing and is one of the most remarkable careers in Hollywood. Clint Eastwood sat on the director's chair, first in 1971 for "Sadistico". And unlike some American star actors who didn't always want to dance according to the directors' whistle, this trip behind the camera was no interlude. Eastwood stayed true to the profession. To date, the American has directed almost 40 feature films.

There are some cinematic gems, works that definitely qualify as "author's film", "art films" could also be said if this word didn't sound so inappropriate in connection with Clint Eastwood: the jazz film "Bird" for example or that heartbreaking melodrama "The Bridges on the River". Or films like "Mystic River", "Million Dollar Baby" and "Gran Torino", all made in the new millennium when Eastwood was over 70.

Eastwood's roles have become something self-reflecting over the years

The other, second level that Eastwood invented was to change roles as an actor. More and more he used himself in his films as a reflective character, showed surprising facets, differentiated and multi-layered roles. The most striking thing was in the late west "Pale Rider – the nameless rider" and "Merciless". There he played with heroic clichés in the very American film genre par excellence, the Western. At some point he was miles away from a John Wayne, the American hero of earlier times, who had found this multifaceted existence only in exceptional cases.

Film still The Mule with Eastwood (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Brave age role: Clint Eastwood 2018 in his penultimate film "The Mule"

Sure, you could say that Clint Eastwood has grown old. But that's only half the truth, see "American Sniper". The Clint Eastwood phenomenon is more likely to be approached if one looks at its involvement in politics. Eastwood was always close to the Republicans, but he was never a party politician in front of the camera.

Independence down to the last consequence is probably his trademark: "I think I was socio-politically left and economically right before it came into fashion," he said once and: "I don't see myself as conservative, but I'm neither ultra-left. I like the libertarian view of leaving everyone alone. As a child, I was annoyed by people who wanted to tell everyone how to live. " This also fits his initial support for Donald Trump, but also his harsh departure from the dumb president, which he recently expressed in an interview.

Clint Eastwood also stands for the country's conflict today

Clint Eastwood, who has long achieved legendary status in Hollywood and is now celebrating his 90th birthday, is a reflection of modern America. Today he also stands for the turmoil of the country in 2020 under the aegis of Trump. In his films there are some explanatory patterns for this heterogeneous society.

Just published for further reading: Kai Bliesener: Clint Eastwood – Man with Properties, 232 pages, Schüren Verlag, May 2020, num. Fig., ISBN 978-3-7410-0355-4.

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