Clint Eastwood at 91 brings modern masculinity to the screen

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At 91 years old, actor and director Clint Eastwood is still bringing his quiet intensity and modern masculinity to the big screen. His latest film is “Cry Macho” in which the nonagenarian filmmaker returns to 1970s drama.

Film critic Eric Neuhoff says of “Cry Macho” that “there is in this pure and simple film, a goodness, a sentimental side that is not new to the director and that today is obvious to the eyes.”

Based on the N. Richard Nash book “Cry Macho,” Mike Milo (Clint Eastwood) loses his job as a horse trainer. The former rodeo champion spends his days in his rocking-chair silently contemplating his past glory. He is alone; his wife and son died in an accident. In 1978, his ex-boss asks Mike to go to Mexico to pick up his 13-year-old son, Rafa (Eduardo Minett), whom he abandoned a long time ago, to bring him home to Texas. Driving in his Chevrolet, as chevrotant as him, Mike crosses the border where he finds Rafa participating in cockfights, living with his alcoholic mother. His red-crested bird is called Macho. On the journey home, the old horseman finds redemption by teaching the young cockfighter about the meaning of masculinity. 

Eric Neuhoff describes the dull melancholy, the sentimentality, the slow passing of time “in ochre, dusty landscapes, with epiphanies, like this scene where broncos gallop along the road to pass the gringo’s car or this image where we see the pensioner and the barmaid dancing in the middle of the tables, in an orange ray flooding the restaurant obliquely. The sun also rises.” The last line is a nod to American author Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) and his 1926 novel of the same name.  

In the program Encore, film critic Lisa Nesselson explains why there is plenty to like – but not necessarily love – in his latest film, “Cry Macho.” She says that Eastwood “never, ever over acts” but some acting by others in his latest movie is “a bit clunky.”

Nesselson says of Clint Eastwood that “he is not only an icon of what it can mean to be an American male, from super tough to sensitive, and everything in between, he’s a great American success story, parlaying good looks, talent, hard work, and luck into an enviable career as an actor and director, in addition to producing, and often musically scoring his films – not bad for a guy who may never have graduated from high school.” 

It is also a film about never giving up on an interesting story. American author Nathan Richard Nusbaum (1913-2000), with pseudonyms John Roc and N. Richard Nash, wrote the book in 1975. Film adaptations began in 1991 with Roy Scheider, and again in 2011, under Brad Furman’s directorship with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role. Both were cancelled soon after production commenced.

Clint Eastwood Jr. was born in 1930 in San Francisco, California. In the 1970s, he was well-known as an actor in the “Dirty Harry” series of five films as anti-hero policeman Harry Callahan. These and his 1960s Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns made him “an enduring icon of masculinity.” Eastwood alludes to these films in “Cry Macho.” In the 1990s, when he directed movies, he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture for the 1992 Western movie “Unforgiven” and continues to receive acclaim.

His new movie has mixed reviews, some saying the film is indifferent, sentimental, and uncompelling. Nevertheless, Clint Eastwood is cinemagraphically visually astute, as with all his films. And his speech is controlled and concise. He is well known, from the beginning of his acting career, as tight-lipped, “delivering his lines through his teeth.” But, as Hazrat Inayat Khan says, “When speech is controlled, the eyes speak: the glance says what words can never say.”

Photographs: (chicken) Claire Folger/Warner Bros

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