unforgiven

Unforgiven

By Stevie Wang

In 1880 in Big Whiskey, a small town in Wyoming, the local sheriff enforces a firearms ban, obtaining ruthless autonomy for himself and his associates across town. Having no serious threats to their authority, the sheriff and his associates are free to manipulate the law to their own self interests. The film starts off with such a case; a prostitute gets disfigured by two cowboys. The sheriff however, lets them off by having the cowboys compensate the brothel owner with horses much to the objection of the rest of the prostitutes. The prostitutes then hire outlaws from out of town to extract vengeful justice but they later clash with the sheriff when they come to Big Whiskey armed with revolvers and rifles.

The concept of having the ability to bear firearms and therefore owning the ultimate legitimacy in the law and order of a small community rings throughout “Unforgiven.” In a small town in the rural Western frontier where population is scarce, authority belongs to those who posses the means to defend themselves. In the case of Big Whiskey, only a select few in town have firearms which means they have authority by force. This would not be the case if at least a clear majority of town were armed. (more…)

unforgiven

“Unforgiven”: Guns, Government, and the Non-Aggression Principle

s6zmsThe film “Unforgiven”, by the legendary Clint Eastwood, is a story of an aged outlaw who, with the help of his old partner and a young gunslinger, aim to kill and collect the bounty on two cowboys who attacked a prostitute in the small town of Big Whiskey. Eastwood, who plays the leading role (Will Munny) in the film, reluctantly joins the party aiming to kill the cowboys due to the fact that his departed wife would have been opposed. Once the trio of killers arrive in Big Whiskey, they are abruptly run out by the town’s heavy handed Sheriff, Little Bill. Thereafter they accomplish their mission, but with this comes tragedy. Munny’s partner, and close friend, Ned Logan, is captured by the law of Big Whiskey and killed for his crimes. Munny, upon finding this out, returns to Big Whiskey and exacts revenge on Little Bill and anyone who stands in his way.

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The Character of American Sniper

american-sniper-poster-2American Sniper is one of perhaps three films* that I’ve seen all year which profoundly capture the pure essence of an individual.

Everything about it is distilled through the singular goal of telling the story of Chris Kyle, “America’s most lethal sniper”, during his four tours as a Navy SEAL in the Iraq War. Kyle is a man who I would have had almost nothing in common with either on an intellectual level or even simply as a matter of personality.

Yet through the phenomenal directing by Clint Eastwood, and the masterful portrayal by Bradley Cooper, I came out of the theater deeply understanding the character of Chris Kyle. Who he was as a human being; what he believed; why he believed it… And yet at no point did the film make any heavy-handed push for me to agree with the way he saw the world. That’s a trait that is nearly impossible to achieve as a director and speaks to Eastwood’s absolute mastery as a filmmaker.

In a recent interview with The Star, Eastwood explained his point of view:

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unfrgiven

The Rear View – Unforgiven (1992) – The 20th Century’s Final Film Masterpiece?

(Author’s note:  I am a film buff.  I am a history buff.  With The Rear View I invite you along with me to revisit important films in movie history. – Matt Edwards)

It’s a helluva thing killing a man. You take away all he’s got… all he’s ever gonna have.” – William Munny

Out of the countless films I’ve watched more than once, this western tale of revenge, redemption and rampage ranks among the greatest stories ever filmed.  I know I’m not making some avant-garde claim that this mainstream Hollywood film is a masterpiece.  Unforgiven won almost every best picture award of the season from film academies, film critic circles, guilds and magazine polls.

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Clint Eastwood cleaned up in the director accolades.  David Webb Peoples was singled out multiple times for his brilliant screenplay.  Gene Hackman seemed to win every supporting actor award.  (In my view he was simply the spokesman for accepting the awards for his the entire supporting acting team of Richard Harris, Morgan Freeman and Frances Fisher.)

Clint’s longtime cinematographer, Jack N. Green, photographed the most beautiful of America’s big sky west.  (Personally, the fact that Jack Green also DP’d Serenity completes me.)  Oscar-winning editor Joel Cox has been with Eastwood every step of the way in Eastwood’s filmmaking career and the mood he and his sound designers create is unparalleled.  Eastwood even wrote the theme for the score of the film which quite hauntingly reverbs from every distant mountain, rain cloud and field of grass which grace the screen.  In short, Eastwood’s team in front of and behind the camera deserve every bit of praise.

unforgivenI want to single out the editing and sound design for a moment.  Two things that rarely get their due recognition outside of those awkward moments when Scarlett Johansson hands some guy who’s been locked up in a sound booth for 16 hours a day an Oscar.  When a sound mix is done right, you don’t notice it one bit.  It’s not until repeated viewings that you start to look around with your ears.  The use of the thunderstorm in films can, has been, and will always be, overused in movies.  However, if you ever want to know how to use it correctly, I can’t stress enough how perfectly it’s used this film.  It’s a theme that makes absolute sense.  The thunderstorm is the Greek chorus of the story and is accompanied by chilled winds, creaking floorboards, and… perfectly timed silence.

With all that Hollywood offers us today, this film from 22 years ago manages to do something that very few films do.  In the context of the Hollywood western film genre, Unforgiven is the grand finale of the first century of Hollywood filmmaking, if you will.  From Charlie Chaplin to Hitchcock, John Ford to Spielberg, Howard Hawks to John Hughes, American Film of the twentieth century was the age of discovery in the art of storytelling with moving pictures.  In a vacuum, Unforgiven is able to stand as a great film.  But this film does not live in vacuum and neither do we.  Unforgiven was made at the perfect time — a time after so much film history had been laid out.

Let’s look at some of the events that had to occur in that history leading up to filming Unforgiven in order for this film to have as large an impact on audiences as it did and will continue to do so, if we preserve and revisit film history: (more…)