Friday, August 24, 2012

My 100 Favorite Films of All Time #98: Unforgiven

 I find most modern westerns to be frightfully boring, though they are our version of the samurai movie.  As a child, however, I enjoyed Clint Eastwood in his Sergio Leone films.  I was introduced to them by my father, and while the complexities of the stories and characters never entered into my young mind, watching them again as an adult made me realize that my younger self was onto something.  Those films stand apart from other westerns and my admiration for them did not carry over to other films in the genre.  Then came Unforgiven.

I’ve written about this film before.  If you’ve seen it, you know it is one amazing piece of work.  It is a bit slow in places, but this is purposeful.  What you are witnessing is a slow boiling pot, and these days audiences aren’t used to that sort of thing.  When this movie reaches its boiling point it becomes a harrowing and very realistic portrayal of the nature of violence and man.  In that sense, this film becomes almost an extension, a natural progression even, of the Leone works.  Eastwood’s character has a name now, though that doesn’t matter.  The life he is leading at the beginning of the film is the one he could easily be leading after those Italian masterpieces.  The place he ends up, though, puts him right back to where he started, and it is amazing.  He may not be as comfortable on a horse, but he knows his way around a gun.

Eastwood’s film, which won multiple Oscars, is dedicated to Leone.  That dedication couldn’t be more fitting, and if no other western were ever made, this would be an excellent last word on the genre both symbolically and artistically.  After viewing it I had to ask myself, “Where else does this genre have to go?”  Nowhere.  Unforgiven was the journey and the destination.   It almost makes you feel bad for anyone foolish enough to even try making a western now.  Maybe in another few decades something will come along to challenge this, but I think it is highly unlikely this will be unseated as the king of westerns any time soon.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive this film for review purposes.  Clicking on a link could earn me a fistful of dollars.

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