Saturday, 16 October 2010

Hereafter opened this week stateside

Yes, Clint notched up another release this week with Hereafter. It's astonishing how quickly Clint's films come around and is reflective of his continued proficiency and professionalism as a film maker. I will be posting reviews here as I receive them from our US friends who still send in reviews. Incidentally, one of our friends Kevin was the US correspondent from way back in the days of the CEAS, so it is great to still have him around and so actively involved in the Eastwood scene. Thank you Kev.

Clint Squints at the Afterlife
At 80, this surprising director continues to throw us curves.
Davin Ansen October 7th 2010 Newsweek

Clint Eastwood flirted with the supernatural in his allegorical Western Pale Rider, but nothing in his career prepares us for his haunting and haunted Hereafter, a bold, strange, problematic investigation into the nature of the afterlife. At 80, he continues to throw us curves, abandoning the safety of genre for an unconventionally structured story about mortality, loneliness, and the relationship between the living and the dead.
Just to further mix things up, Eastwood opens his movie with the most spectacular action sequence he’s ever mounted—a terrifying tsunami wreaking havoc on a tropical island that would be the crowning achievement of any epic disaster movie. Here it’s more a stunning feat of misdirection, for the tale that follows is intimate and often hushed.
Caught in the tsunami is the first of the three characters whose fates Hereafter follows, a French television host (Cécile De France) who dies in the storm and then miraculously comes back to life. But her glimpse of the beyond makes it impossible for her to reenter her old life as a Parisian celebrity; instead, she becomes obsessed with writing a book about the eerily similar after-death experiences others have endured, a pursuit that costs her credibility in the eyes of her sophisticated friends. As her unhappy publisher notes, it’s a topic more suited to the American market.
The second strand in Peter Morgan’s screenplay concerns George (Matt Damon), a reclusive psychic who can communicate with the dead—a gift he’s come to regard as a curse. Though his ambitious brother (Jay Mohr) wants him to parlay this talent into a fortune, George has withdrawn into a blue-collar job and a solitary existence in San Francisco.
We are then transported to London, where a tragic accident separates young London school-boy Marcus (Frankie McLaren) from his beloved twin brother. Desperately lonely, and packed off to foster parents when his junkie mother goes into rehab, Marcus tries every quack telepathist in London, searching for a way to connect to his lost sibling.
This material couldn’t be further from the reality-inspired political dramas (
Frost/Nixon, The Queen) that made Morgan’s name. Much of the movie’s tension comes from wondering how these three stories are going to connect, but Morgan’s plot mechanics—which grind all too noisily in the London section of the story, and serve up a tidy finale that seems oddly beside the point—are not the film’s real strength. What keeps us rapt are the mysterious and provocative questions Hereafter raises, questions that Eastwood and Morgan know can’t be definitively answered.
Clearly, at this point in his life, questions of mortality aren’t far from Eastwood’s mind, and you can feel his identification with these characters, whose encounters with death both separate them from the rest of the living and give them a sense of urgent purpose. Damon, with his understated but deeply felt performance, and the wonderfully versatile De France supply the movie’s aching soul. And Eastwood keeps it honest. Hereafter confronts a topic that could have descended into mawkish, mystical hokum, but not in Eastwood’s no-nonsense, uncynical hands. He looks at death, and beyond, with clear, open, inquisitive eyes.

Hereafter October 18th 2010 by David Denby The New Yorker
Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” begins with a magnificent re-creation of the 2004 tsunami as it hits an unnamed resort town in Southeast Asia. An initially receding ocean returns as a thick, unstoppable wave that surges ashore and rushes down a street, washing away buildings, tossing cars as if they were sticks, and knocking down a French tourist, Marie (Cécile de France), who then gets clobbered by a piece of metal and appears to be sinking to her death. The sequence was brought off with a combination of actual ocean waves, watery turmoil in a film-studio tank, and digital enhancement, and it entirely overwhelms the rather pallid movie that follows. Marie survives and attempts to resume her career as a broadcast journalist in Paris, only to discover that she is haunted by a vision that she had as she came close to dying—a shimmering impression of blurry figures standing in a whitish light. Peter Morgan’s script places Marie’s story between two parallel narratives: In London, Jason, one of a pair of adorable young twin boys (who are played by the twins George and Frankie McLaren), is hit by a truck and killed, and his brother, Marcus, looks for a means of communicating with him. In San Francisco, George (Matt Damon) has exactly the kind of necromantic powers that Marcus requires. George can summon the recent dead just by grabbing the hands of someone in mourning; he sees white light and shadowy figures, too. He’s not a swindler—he wants to provide solace to the grief-stricken. Yet he’s oppressed by his skills, which link him with the dead but leave him no life of his own.
As George, Matt Damon stays all too faithfully in character. He’s puffy-looking and blockish and he doesn’t have a spark in him, not even a flicker of anger at the strange ability that is destroying George’s life. It’s the first boring performance of Damon’s career, although the bland inertia may not be his fault. The way Eastwood stages the “readings,” they hold no terror for George. After grasping a grieving person’s hands for a second, he makes his report from the netherworld—benevolent messages from the dead, who are eager to help the living with useful advice. Have none of them had any traffic with the Devil? Or even a malevolent thought? The messages are inane. Eastwood clearly wanted to avoid routine scare techniques and the banalities of “atmosphere”—he didn’t want to make a fantastic fiction like “The Sixth Sense.” But the communications with the dead went by without raising a single goose bump on this suggestible viewer’s skin.
Eastwood hasn’t worked out the movie emotionally: Marie, lapsing out of her job, just seems vague, as if she had lost her mind as well as her will to work. Eastwood does better with the twins, who are charming, and he shows a touching sympathy for the difficulties of working-class and middle-class life, giving us brief portraits of the boys’ loving but drug-addicted mother and the helpful foster parents who take Marcus in. The movie has long stretches of pleasant, low-intensity narrative, with people going in and out of buildings and climbing stairs and reading letters, and so on, but it never develops the slightest urgency. Peter Morgan, who wrote such shrewd and worldly movies as “The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon,” seems to have fallen into a trance himself. He first had the idea for the script when he lost a close friend in an accident. “We can be so close to somebody, know everything about them, share everything with them, and then they’re gone and suddenly we know nothing,” he has said. The bafflement that comes with loss is certainly a strong enough emotion to get a story moving, but, by turning to spiritualism, visions, and the afterlife, Morgan has wandered into hokum without illuminating grief. Most of the movie is not about what the dead mean to the living; it’s about having nice little chats with ghosts, and neither Eastwood nor Morgan has the taste for such flamboyant stuff. The two men have accomplished the questionable feat of domesticating the uncanny, and, in the process, they’ve lost their storytelling skills—the coincidences that bring the main characters together by the end are laughably unconvincing.
If the filmmakers’ first folly was to turn to spiritualism, the second was to prop up spiritualism with pseudoscience. Marie journeys to a French mountain clinic, from which the veteran actress Marthe Keller, playing a doctor in a white coat, emerges as some sort of Alpine guru. She tells Marie that many people have experienced visions as they approach death. Marie then writes a book and becomes a fighter, combatting prejudice against the visionary. “Hereafter” begins with a mighty wave but ends in a trickle of self-righteousness.


He Sees Dead People: Clint Eastwood’s Still Got It With Hereafter
By Rex Reed
October 12, 2010 The New York Observer
Shifting gears to a softer, gauzier mood, Clint Eastwood's Hereafter finds the masterful icon charting new terrain. Slavish fans of his rugged westerns, left-wing war canvases and kidney-punch gangster epics may be appalled to find him in a reflective frame of mind about life after death and the supernatural. Romantic confections with soft marshmallow centers are not his strong suit (remember the godawful Bridges of Madison County?), but not to worry. The grizzled director does not appear in it, and there is nothing awkward or mawkish about it. Hereafter might be tender, but in no way is it the work of a tenderfoot. It's a change of pace, but it exemplifies every carefully honed aspect of the treasured director's craft. Besides, Mr. Eastwood has earned the right to make any kind of movie he wants (at unthinkable expense), and when a man reaches his midnight years, it's perfectly understandable that he starts contemplating the afterlife.

With an intriguing screenplay by Peter Morgan that is worlds away from his political, character-driven biopics like The Queen and Frost/Nixon, the surprising and often insightful Hereafter follows three separate but parallel narratives set in Paris, San Francisco and London, connected by a thin metaphysical thread involving a reluctant psychic (Matt Damon); it remains compelling and artfully constructed throughout. Losing none of his grip at 80, the director opens with a spectacular, jaw-dropping scene in a peaceful Indian Ocean beach resort suddenly overwhelmed and wiped away by the disaster and destruction of the 2004 tsunami. Marie (Cecile de France), a vacationing French television reporter, is shopping for souvenirs when she is swept away by the mighty waves and knocked unconscious. While two strangers try to save her, she drifts into an otherworldly vision of "the other side." Even after she is revived, she returns to Paris transformed by her near-death experience.
Cut to San Francisco, where George (Damon), a nervous factory worker, tries vainly to escape his past as a psychic by working as a hard hat. Having developed his ability to communicate with the dead after almost dying from a brain operation as a child, he now regards this talent as more of a curse than a gift. Avoiding people for fear of reading their minds, he searches for a new, pleasurable chapter in his life by enrolling in a 10-week night-school course in Italian cooking. (Picture Matt Damon, clumsily chopping garlic for arrabiata sauce.) Unavoidably, he takes a shine to another student trying to jump-start her life (Bryce Dallas Howard), but when she finds out about his secret talent and insists on a reading, he sees things in her life and tells her truths that drive her away.
Meanwhile, in England, twin brothers Marcus and Jason (remarkably well played by Frankie and George McLaren) try to cover for their junkie mother while social workers threaten to turn them over to government child-protection services. Ambushed by bullies and chased into the street, Jason is hit and killed by a truck, leaving Marcus grieving and haunted by the loss. Marie, George and little Marcus have all been touched by death in different ways, and Mr. Eastwood does a fascinating job of cutting between stories while the characters seek peace and solace from their painful memories. In Paris, Marie takes a leave of absence from her job as a TV reporter after going blank on the air, blacking out after recurring visions of the moments when she was pronounced drowned, and writes a book about psychic phenomena. In England, Marcus makes the rounds of spiritual hacks in a desperate need to communicate with his dead brother, disillusioned until he reads about George on an old Web site. The three stories finally meld in London, where George goes to get away from his brother, who's nagging him to form a business capitalizing on his powers; Marie is appearing there on a book tour. Marcus follows George back to his hotel from a book fair. The denouement seems contrived and not entirely comfortable, and I hoped for a more convincing finale from the astute Peter Morgan than the creaky and fractured ending pictured here. Still, Mr. Eastwood covers his bases; there is even a healthy dose of skepticism throughout, and I admire the way the film is in no hurry to move things along briskly. We get to know and like the characters before we rush to judgment. The actors do well enough by the material, although Mr. Damon's pleasant but meaningless voice, unsupported by the kind of depth he showed in his best film, The Talented Mr. Ripley, deprives him of any human dimensions. Yet he still makes you believe him, working from sheer impulse.
People expecting clever, arty editing or tricky camera movements will be almost as disappointed as those anticipating a smash ending with special effects. (The big effects are all in the tsunami sequence.) Still, there is plenty of excitement and pulse in Hereafter, as well as a reluctance to provide easy answers to life's great mysteries. I'm happy to see a great director take on the challenge of new and different material with his customary grace and impressive two-fisted technique intact. In the cinema, like the Cordon Bleu, cooking up elegance without fluff is always welcome, and Mr. Eastwood is a master chef.



Above: Clint, left, with Peter Morgan who wrote the screenplay for Hereafter
The Other Side of Clint
Hereafter, speaking through dead people, says a lot about Eastwood the director.
By
David Edelstein Published Oct 8, 2010 New York Magazine
Clint Eastwood’s supernatural drama Hereafter starts big and ends small, its hold gradually slackening, its thread dissolving. To be honest, it never had much of a thread. The film introduces three main characters in three different countries, cutting among them more or less at random, laying the groundwork for what we hope will be a killer last act in which they all come together and … what? Cross over to the “other side”? Welcome the dead in a Close Encounters mother ship? No, it’s not that kind of movie. Hereafter occupies some muzzy twilight zone, too woo-woo sentimental to be real, too limp to make for even a halfway decent ghost story.
The picture has one indisputably boffo scene, and it comes at the start: A tsunami smashes into a Southeast Asian beach resort, sweeping through the town and carrying off (among many others) a French TV reporter, Marie (Cécile de France), who gets conked on the head and appears to die. It’s an amazing piece of filmmaking, and not just because of the special effects. Eastwood’s camera remains at street level, watching the wave as it rushes closer and closer, getting picked up and carried along with Marie. The sequence is such a tour de force that it’s heartbreaking when Marie—who’s not dead but not not-dead—has a vision of the afterlife that looks like the old TV promos for Lost, with actors (in this case all streaky and whited-out) at various distances staring into the camera. It gets so tacky so fast.
In San Francisco, meanwhile, Matt Damon’s George abandons a lucrative career as a John Edward–style medium because he can’t handle the pressure that comes with being a conduit to the hereafter. Although he sounds like a typically bogus cold reader—“I’m seeing a woman with dark hair: Is that right?”—he’s supposed to be the real McCoy, a man who can grasp someone’s hand and see … those blurry Lost promos.
The final protagonist is Marcus (played by both George and Frankie McLaren), a working-class London boy whose twin brother, Jason (also played by George and Frankie—a curious casting gimmick that pays off), gets chased by bullies into the street and run over by a car. Snatched away from his junkie mom and placed in foster care, the bereft Marcus, who always let Jason make the decisions, Googles in anguish for someone to help him talk to his brother, preferably on a daily basis. A couple of clicks and there’s George.
Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) said he wrote Hereafter after losing a close friend and longing—as we all do, at some point—to make contact with “the other side.” That, of course, is how unscrupulous charlatans earn seven-figure incomes. But while Morgan is careful to show us some phonies—cold readers asking questions that are bound to elicit “hits”—he’s firmly in the camp that says, “Hey, it’s possible.” Given that early in the film, the existence of an afterlife is firmly established and George’s powers are proved authentic, there’s little left for the movie to do but bring him and Marcus and Marie (now also plagued by Lost promos) together. And that’s exactly what happens—in about an hour.
As usual with Eastwood, the performances are all over the map. Damon is so self-effacing you can almost see Eastwood’s visage superimposed over his, the mole supernaturally shifted from the right side to the left. A long section of the film centers on George and an effusive young woman he meets in an Italian cooking class, which is meant to show how his links to the dead inevitably sabotage his connection with the living. But watching Bryce Dallas Howard madly overact—she looks like she wants to ravish him over his cutting board—while Damon stares at her in a semi-stupor, you wonder if the scene is meant to be played as farce. The final scene, in which George is suddenly able to see the future as well as the dead, is just plain bewildering.
My impression is that Eastwood—while revered by many as a premier auteur with a strong personal vision—picks scripts he likes and shoots them pretty much as they are; and when a script is, like Morgan’s, badly in need of a polish and minus a satisfying windup, he’ll shoot it anyway and figure the lapses will be viewed as powerful artistic choices attributable to his laid-back, jazz-inflected style. That seems to be the case with Hereafter, which closed the New York Film Festival and has already been hailed as a masterly summing-up of his long career—although what Morgan’s first-draft stab at a crossing-over weepie has to do with the rest of Eastwood’s oeuvre is a mystery as unfathomable as what happens after death.
 Rolling Stone magazine, Peter Travers, Oct 14th 2010
In more than half a century of making movies, Clint Eastwood, 80, has sent many a varmint to his maker. Hereafter is the first time he's showed any curiosity about what lies on the other side. It's typical of Eastwood's mastery as a director that his approach to the topic is introspective, not inflammatory.
Though Hereafter begins with a stunningly staged tsunami, it's the quiet moments that draw us in. Matt Damon excels as George Lonegan, a San Francisco construction worker who has turned his back on his psychic gifts. George doesn't want to talk to the dead. But even the babe (Bryce Dallas Howard) he meets in cooking class pushes him. So does Marcus, a London lad who wants to commune with his dead twin, Jason (both twins are played by George and Frankie McLaren). Then there's Paris TV journalist Marie LeLay (the excellent Cécile De France), whose near-death experience in the tsunami provides a link to George.
Eastwood hits narrative bumps on this atypical spiritual journey, as does politics-obsessed screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon). No worries. It's exhilarating to watch these two talents explore new ground without bias or trendy cynicism. Hereafter, set to a resonant Eastwood score, truly is haunting.

Eastwood's pensive 'Hereafter' is a matter of death and life
By
Claudia Puig, USA TODAY
A tsunami looms both realistically and as a metaphor for the overwhelming surge of emotion rising from below the surface in the haunting Hereafter.
A meditation on mortality, the movie deftly interweaves the stories of three people in different countries, who have in common their exploration of death and the mysteries surrounding it. This is no tale of paranormal activity. It offers no clear-cut answers on life after death. Rather, it calmly examines death, grief and melancholy, packing an unexpectedly profound emotional gut-punch.
Blending the mystical with the multinational,
Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) has crafted an intimate, thought-provoking, dialogue-driven story, directed masterfully by Clint Eastwood.
There are a few glitches in this ambitious globe-spanning narrative, mostly having to do with too much time and detail spent on less-than-integral relationships. But the main performances are subtly compelling.
Matt Damon plays George, a lonely San Francisco man who tries mightily to deny his rare ability to hear dead people. He's somehow a conduit for the thoughts and feelings of the deceased, an ability he regards as a curse. A good-natured man seeking to forge a normal life, he makes a tentative romantic connection with Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard), but he can't escape his otherworldly "gift." Damon is superbly understated in the role.
Marie (Cecile de France) narrowly survives a tsunami while on vacation in Indonesia with her married boyfriend, Didier (Thierry Neuvic). After losing consciousness and sputtering back to life, Marie is consumed with her near-death experience. Upon returning to her native Paris, she abandons her work as a journalist so she can find answers to what she endured. De France's nuanced portrayal conveys both strength and vulnerability.
London schoolboy Marcus (Frankie McLaren) is stricken with grief after the unexpected death of his twin brother, Jason (George McLaren). Desperate to connect and learn whether there's an afterlife, Marcus delves into a world of psychics and charlatans. Both young actors give deeply moving and surprisingly mature performances.
An early scene of the roiling tsunami is awe-inspiring for its computer-generated special-effects muscle. The rest of the film is much more contemplative. Eastwood never rushes a story, even amid exhilarating action scenes. For some, the unfolding of the intertwined tales may be too languid. But the narrative's complexity has a quiet force that requires an unhurried pace. Our compassion for each of the key characters is enhanced by the measured storytelling.
The idea has been repeatedly put forth that Hereafter represents the 80-year-old Eastwood's contemplation of his own mortality. Perhaps. But you don't have to be an octogenarian to be fascinated with what comes after life as we know it.
Hereafter is a pensive saga that transcends death and lyrically examines our darkest fears and our most deeply held beliefs.
 The Dead Have Messages for the Land of the Living
By
A. O. SCOTT
Published: October 14, 2010 NEW YORK TIMES
The afterlife is not necessarily where you would expect to find Clint Eastwood, who at 80 shows no signs of tiring out or settling down. His latest film, “Hereafter,” is at once recognizably his — in tone and atmosphere — and a startling departure from his previous work.

Death has never been a stranger in Mr. Eastwood’s cinematic universe: the lone riders and taciturn gunmen that defined his heroic phase as an actor were frequently pitiless avatars of mortality, and the grave has often been the horizon toward which both the righteous and the wicked in his movies are drawn. But like most filmmakers working outside the genres of horror or sudsy religious comedy, Mr. Eastwood has shown little inclination to point his camera beyond that horizon.
Nor is
Peter Morgan, who wrote the screenplay for “Hereafter,” known to have much of a spiritual or supernatural bent. His specialty — marvelously evident in “The Deal,” “Frost/Nixon,” “The Queen” and “The Damned United” — has been the prickly interactions of living people in a decidedly secular world. The closest Mr. Morgan has come to a ghost story may be “The Queen,” but only if you imagine it from the perspective of the recently departed Diana, Princess of Wales, flitting unseen through limbo, raising a spectral eyebrow at the consternation she has caused her mother-in-law by dying in such dramatically inconvenient fashion.
One of the reasons that “Hereafter” works as well as it does — it has the power to haunt the skeptical, to mystify the credulous and to fascinate everyone in between — may be that its subject matter is so clearly alien to the sensibilities of its makers.
Communication with the dead is a risky business, principally because once the door to the beyond opens a tiny crack, all kinds of maudlin nonsense come rushing in.
But one of Mr. Eastwood’s great and undersung strengths as a director is his ability to wade into swamps of sentimental hokum and come out perfectly dry. Directed by anyone else,
“The Bridges of Madison County”would most likely have been as unbearable as the book on which it was based. “Million Dollar Baby,” though derived from much better source material, walked through a minefield of clichés and emerged as a masterpiece.
“Hereafter” does not land with the clean, devastating force of either of those movies. Instead, it is quiet, gorgeous and contemplative. Mr. Eastwood’s longtime cinematographer, Tom Stern, composes a world of rich, deep shadows and heavy, saturated colors, making you aware of encroaching darkness, but also of the intense, almost tactile beauty of existence. The inhabitants of this world — ordinary people whose plans and expectations are knocked off course by intimations of an afterlife — have a fine-grained individuality that makes you care even if, from time to time, you have trouble believing.
The film follows three independent story lines, which converge (not quite convincingly) only at the last moment, and each involves a collision between the living and the dead. In San Francisco, a man named George Lonegan (
Matt Damon) suffers with a gift that feels, to him, more like a curse. His ability to receive messages from the dead loved ones of anyone he touches once made him a nice living, but despite the pleas of his entrepreneurial brother (Jay Mohr), George has chosen a life of obscurity and manual labor.

In London, Marcus, a melancholy young boy, intuits the presence of his twin brother, Jason, whose violent death has left Marcus adrift in a world where compassion and indifference are hard to tell apart. (The brothers are played by George and Frankie McLaren.) And in Paris, Marie Lelay (Cécile de France), a television journalist who survived the 2004 tsunami, is convinced that her near-death experience in that catastrophe showed her a metaphysical reality that the rest of the world is blindly determined to ignore.
This kind of braided plot, almost unavoidable in the superstitious age of
“Babel” and “Crash,” may be as surprising, coming from Mr. Eastwood, as the large-scale, computer-generated tsunami sequence that snaps the audience to horrified attention early in the film. At the same time, there is an austerity in “Hereafter” that keeps the melodramatic possibilities latent in the script safely at bay. Mr. Eastwood’s stripped-down, highly efficient approach to storytelling serves as an anchor to the busy narrative and the complicated visuals, and perhaps the most gratifying thing about “Hereafter” is its patience.
You would not want a movie about death to be in too much of a hurry, and Mr. Eastwood lingers over scenes and details that curl away from the plot. A meeting in the boardroom of a French publishing house, at which Marie proposes a book on the life and times of
François Mitterrand, the former president of France, is both perfectly irrelevant and completely engrossing as a snapshot of Gallic politique.
George, cautiously trying to shake off his gloom and find a social life, enrolls in a cooking class, where he meets Melanie (
Bryce Dallas Howard), a young woman who seems as eager to fall in love with him as he is reluctant to believe it. Their early flirtations, delicate and funny with a palpable ache of longing, dispel the gloom and portent that linger around George, offering him a tantalizing peek at what a normal life might look like.
Normal life, in the terms proposed by this film, might be defined as existence pursued in a state of studied incuriosity about what comes next. What gives “Hereafter” its strange, unsettling mood and its curious momentum is the growing tension between this relatively happy state and the sense, shared by Marie, Marcus and George, that what comes next lies at once close at hand and beyond the reach of any organized system of beliefs.
Persuasion is not really the point, though if anyone could make me believe in ghosts, it would be Clint Eastwood. And the afterlife itself remains, throughout the film, a vague, conjectural place, a zone of speculation rather than a freshly discovered and surveyed continent. The fuzzy digital ghosts that occasionally flutter across the screen are more symbolic placeholders than literal apparitions. Something seems to be out there, and cinematic technology provides an available shorthand to indicate its presence.
What does seem new — newly strange, newly beautiful — is what “Hereafter” makes of the here and now. It is a curious movie in both senses of the word: an unusual experience and an open-ended inquiry into something nobody can really claim to understand. It leaves you wondering, which may be the most fitting way of saying that it’s wonderful.

Here’s a nice feature from the New York Times that ties in with Hereafter.
Eastwood Breaks Another Mold
By CHARLES McGRATH Published: October 13, 2010

ALMOST every fall lately, it seems, Clint Eastwood drops a little surprise on the moviegoing public: an unheralded, modestly budgeted film about a subject that hardly seems to fit the Eastwood mold. In 2004 there was “Million Dollar Baby,” about a female boxer; in 2008 there was “Gran Torino,” about a bigoted Korean War vet, played by Mr. Eastwood himself, who forms an unlikely, heartwarming friendship with a young Hmong boy. His latest film, “Hereafter,” which opened Friday in New York and will be released nationwide a week later, ventures into supernatural territory, which is about the last place you’d expect to find Mr. Eastwood. “Hereafter” concerns itself with just what the title suggests: what we can look forward to after we die.
Mr. Eastwood is 80 now, and his film immortality, as both an actor and a director, is assured. He has never seemed remotely spiritual. His trademark characters —
Dirty Harry and the Man with No Name, and even Walt Kowalksi, the “Gran Torino” vet — all face death squarely and unflinchingly, without a lot of hand wringing about what happens on the other side. “Hereafter,” though, weaves together the stories of three people who have death on their minds pretty much all the time: a French journalist (Cécile de France) who has a near-death experience during the 2004 tsunami; a reluctant psychic (Matt Damon) who has visions of the afterlife; and a London schoolboy (Frankie McLaren) who is desperate to get in touch with his dead twin brother. They all meet, and their stories connect, at the London Book Fair, of all places. No one gets shot, no blows are exchanged.
Has Mr. Eastwood, famously flinty and cold-eyed, at long last gone squishy? On the phone recently he sounded mellow but not mushy.
“Everyone has had these thoughts pass across his mind once in a while,” he said. “Is there an afterlife? What’s it like? All the great religions have tried to deal with these questions.” He added that what he liked about the script is that “it has a spiritual feeling without any particular religious touch.”
But mostly what appealed to him about “Hereafter” was the storytelling. “I liked the way the script took contemporary events like the tsunami and the London terrorist bombings and used them in a story that tapped into a general curiosity about the hereafter and whether it exists,” he said. “I liked the way the three tales all converged. That’s something I had never tried before. And the reticent hero is always interesting, the hero who doesn’t appreciate the gift he has.”
“Hereafter” was written by
Peter Morgan, better known for his films about British royalty — “The Queen,” “The Other Boleyn Girl” — and for his play “Frost/Nixon,” which he later turned into a movie as well. His involvement in a project about the afterlife is in many ways even more remarkable than Mr. Eastwood’s, and his script, as it happens, underwent a near-death experience and then a resurrection.
“How did this come about? I have no idea, really,” Mr. Morgan said from his car while stuck in traffic in Vienna, where he lives part of the year and does almost all of his writing. “I am a person of the Enlightenment, as it were.”
What prompted “Hereafter,” he went on to say, was the book “If the Spirit Moves You: Life and Love After Death,” by Justine Picardie, a British journalist devastated by the premature death of her sister, Ruth. At once hopeful and skeptical, she visited spiritualists, mediums and people who claimed to be able to record the voices of the dead and examined her own experience of bereavement. “I was just gripped by it,” Mr. Morgan said of the book. “It made me realize that we know so much of life before birth, and so little about life after death.”
Normally an obsessive outliner and reviser, he began writing a screenplay without any clear idea of where it was going. “So much of what I usually do offers solution or explanations, but this time I wanted to write something open ended,” he said. “I didn’t want answers. I wanted to ask questions.”
The first character he imagined was Marcus, the twin who lost his brother, and then the two others, the journalist and the psychic, quickly suggested themselves. “I was writing instinctively, almost in sketch mode,” he said. “It was all so spare and skeletal that the pages were very white.”
He put the script away for a while, but after a close friend died unexpectedly, he picked it up again. “That really startled me,” he said of his friend’s death. “In the church I kept thinking: ‘Now what? Where? What’s happened?’ ”
Hoping just for a reaction, he passed the script to his agent, who instead sent it off to the producer
Kathleen Kennedy (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Jurassic Park”). Seeing a resemblance to “The Sixth Sense,” she in turn showed it to the director of that film, M. Night Shyamalan. Later she happened to be on the soundstage of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” while talking to Mr. Shyamalan on the phone, and she was overheard by Steven Spielberg, who according to Mr. Morgan said, “I like the sound of that.” He liked the sound of it so much that he read the screenplay and made extensive notes, which Mr. Morgan immediately addressed in a revision.
But Mr. Spielberg thought the revision was not as “humble” or “pure” as the original, Mr. Morgan said. “He told me, ‘I think I’ve ruined your screenplay.’ Then he said, ‘Can I show it to my friend Clint?’ ”
“So now we’re really in the realm of the absurd,” Mr. Morgan said. A couple of months later he was further bewildered when he learned that Mr. Eastwood, who had purchased the rights to “Hereafter,” was already filming off the original script. Though known for writing on spec and resisting the traditional development process, Mr. Morgan had been looking forward to working with Mr. Eastwood.
“I imagined we’d have all sorts of conversations about the characters, about the plot,” he said. “But we never did. What you see on the screen is this thing I wrote very sketchily in the mountains of Austria.”
Mr. Eastwood said he typically works this way. “I believe very strongly in first impressions,” he explained. “When something hits you and excites your interest, there’s really no reason to kill it with improvements.” He even resisted the idea of having
Penélope Cruz play the female lead, because it meant changing the character from a French journalist to a Spanish one.
“Clint is incredibly instinctive,” Mr. Morgan said, “and he’s anti-neurosis. It’s like antimatter. He’s totally without neurosis. The set of ‘Hereafter’ was one of happiest places I’ve ever been. It comes from trusting yourself and eliminating fear.”
Referring to
Ron Howard, who directed the film version of “Frost/Nixon,” he continued: “Ron is the same way. He’s completely at home on a movie set, and I think it comes from practically growing up there. He and Clint are rather like sailors from a bygone century. They come into port every now and then, but really they live on the ship. They’re seafarers.”
Movie review: 'Hereafter'
Clint Eastwood explores death and the beyond through three stories with solid performances by Matt Damon and Cécile de France.
By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
October 15, 2010

Death is the barrier we can't get around, an eternal void burdening those among the living who yearn for those who are gone. What would it mean if we could communicate with the other side, or even just be sure it existed?That is the theme of the haunting "Hereafter," the latest work from Clint Eastwood, which presents a trio of stories having to do with what might be on that far side and how it relates to the world we know.Over the years, Eastwood has very much become a director we expect to deliver the unexpected, and he's done that here. Hollywood once upon a time made films exploring these kinds of issues, but in today's climate only a filmmaker like Eastwood, determined to never do the same thing twice, would have the nerve and the clout to take it on.
Though its subject matter is unusual, the compelling thing about "Hereafter" is the way it places spiritual themes squarely in the kind of Hollywood context that attracts stars like
Matt Damon and top Belgian actress Cécile de France. What's surprising and satisfying about this film are its determination to deal with unconventional material in a classical way."Hereafter" was also a departure for screenwriter Peter Morgan, best known for fact-based stories like "Frost/Nixon" and "The Queen." He apparently wrote the script after the death of a friend and, because it was so out of the ordinary for him, put it away for years.Morgan's script turns out to be a fine match for Eastwood's fluid, unassuming directing style. His direct, unadorned approach pares everything down to its essence, the better to express the core of the narrative in the most direct and effective way possible. This is quiet but potent filmmaking that believes nothing is more important than the story it has to tell.Actually, it is three stories that are told, and "Hereafter" begins by providing a wonderful sense of uncertainty, giving us the gift of not knowing where these tales are going and whether or not they will have things in common besides dealing with death and the beyond. Like the similarly affecting "Never Let Me Go," "Hereafter" is best approached with as little specific information as possible.The first story introduces us to a French couple, unmarried lovers and professional colleagues, vacationing in Indonesia. Marie (De France, who appeared in "Mesrine") is a journalist who leaves her napping companion to get some last-minute shopping done.This small excursion takes a nightmarish turn when, in a formidable piece of special effects work — orchestrated by visual effects supervisor Michael Owens, effects house Scanline and editors Joel Cox and Gary Roach — Marie gets caught in a monstrous tsunami.Eastwood's team makes this wall of water and Marie's near-death experience in it so convincing that it can't help but be deeply disturbing to watch, giving us more of a sense of what being trapped in a tsunami would actually be like than we may want. So it's easy to believe that once Marie returns to Paris, she finds herself disturbed by what happened and her glimpse of the beyond.Next up is Matt Damon's George, a blue-collar guy who operates a forklift in San Francisco and yearns for a normal life. For it turns out that George, rather like the Bible's Jonah, is a man fleeing from his calling. In a world of fakes and frauds, he is the genuine article, a psychic who is very much for real and gets authentic messages from the other side.But having the kind of gift that leads frantic people to invade your life day and night can be a terrible burden, especially when George meets a cute young woman ( Bryce Dallas Howard) he thinks of getting serious about. As he himself says, "A life that's all about death is no life at all."The film's third story is set in London and involves a set of identical twin schoolboys (George and Frankie McLaren) who run interference for their substance-abusing mother. Something happens in this family that demonstrates how the desperate need to communicate with the departed can take over the lives of those still living."Hereafter" cuts back and forth among these three stories in an increasingly gripping way. Especially involving as always is Damon, convincing as an everyman torn by the kinds of conflicts few people have to deal with. Can peace be made between the here and the hereafter? It's a question that can't be answered, but few directors have the ability to explore the possibilities as gracefully as this singular filmmaker approaching in his 80th year.


'Hereafter' among Clint Eastwood's best
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle Movie Critic San Francisco Chronicle October 20, 2010 Wednesday, October 20, 2010

That Clint Eastwood has become a great filmmaker is something few would contest, yet the nature of his greatness is as surprising as it's little understood. You can talk about the pristine technique - the new film, "Hereafter," provides lots of examples. But what's much more fascinating and enriching is Eastwood's Olympian vision, the sympathetic and all-encompassing understanding of the pain and grandeur of life on earth.
This vision is consistent in Eastwood's late work, no matter who is doing the screenwriting, and it boggles the mind to realize that this is coming from a guy who, until he was about 60, was best known as an action hero. Make no mistake, Eastwood's directorial output, from "Mystic River" on, constitutes the 21st century's first cinematic marvel, and "Hereafter" is among the best things he has ever done.
Like Alejandro Inarritu's "Babel" and Wayne Kramer's "Crossing Over," "Hereafter" is an attempt to convey the bigness of life though a story involving disparate characters in different parts of the world. All three movies are responses to the interconnectedness of the world, but "Hereafter" is by far the most successful, partly because it has the best screenplay - by Peter Morgan ("The Queen") - and partly because it has a director who understands the difference between important and self-important.
Importance is earned, shot by shot, scene by scene. Self-importance is assumed, and is largely a matter of adopting an attitude and keeping a straight face. Eastwood takes us into the story from the opening shots. From a hotel, we see a beach resort, filmed with the kind of color saturation we might see in an old postcard. The effect is reassuring, but misleading. A vacationing French journalist (Cecile De France) goes into the village to buy presents. And suddenly, there's a rumbling, the sight of a rising wave, and within seconds, buildings are washed away, and cars, trucks and people are all caught in a rushing flood.
There have been tidal waves in movies before, but what makes this one so effective (aside from being perfectly realized on the technical end) is that Eastwood stays with De France. He doesn't show us an overview, so that we might get our bearings. Rather, we experience the catastrophe from one person's terrified and completely subjective vantage point. It's as close as you'll ever be to a tidal wave without getting wet.
"Hereafter" features three central characters that have been touched by death. The newswoman drowns and is revived. A construction worker (Matt Damon) in San Francisco is cursed with an ability to talk to the dead. (If he touches someone, he finds himself in communication with that person's dead relatives - so much for his love life.) And a little boy in London develops an all-consuming desire to talk to a recently deceased loved one. These stories play out separately, then gradually move toward one another.
Notice how every shot communicates something precise, whether it's plot detail or a thought or emotion. As an actor, Eastwood is used to breaking up a script into a succession of specific actions, and he does the same as a director. Such meticulousness serves his actors well and allows Eastwood to take his time within scenes and let them expand and feel lived in. He never wastes his audience's time, because he is always feeding it new information.
Eastwood's practical unwillingness to neglect any actor ends up giving "Hereafter" a humane essence: Everybody is important, not just Damon as the tortured psychic or De France as a breezy extrovert deepened by trauma. Thus, the little boy's mother (Lyndsey Marshal), is more than a desperate alcoholic, and
Bryce Dallas Howard gets to create a rich character as Melanie, the psychic's partner in a San Francisco cooking class - a young woman masking pain under a superficial facade that has become her personality.
The ironic result of all this meticulous care is that we don't see Eastwood's hand but rather have the illusion that this gallery of humanity is telling the story for him. It's the most self-effacing way to do great work, and it's an approach that couldn't be more suited to this material. The film's notion that people share a common destiny, that they're participating in some overarching order, that they're being watched over by a benevolent all-seeing understanding, doesn't need to be spelled out. It has its analogue and expression in Eastwood's technique.
He just tells the story, and we get it.

Eastwood looks to Hereafter
Director takes a let-the-viewer-decide approach in afterlife movie, which is gaining Oscar buzz
By PAUL WILNER Yahoo
Oct. 19, 2010

Carmel, Calif. - Needless to say, Clint Eastwood arrives at the Mission Ranch Inn without an entourage. No handlers required — nor, it is clear from his casual but confident demeanor, are they welcome. After exchanging pleasantries with the hotel manager - he owns the joint, after saving it from being torn down and replaced by condominiums in the early '80s - he settles down at a table in the restaurant to talk about his latest movie, Hereafter, written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon).
An interlocking tale of three characters in search of answers about the afterlife, it stars Matt Damon playing a blue-collar San Francisco psychic with an unwanted connection to the dead. Already mentioned as an Oscar contender, the film features a breakout performance by Belgian actress Cécile de France. She plays a French television journalist who has a near-death experience after surviving a tsunami in a CGI-enhanced opening sequence described by Time magazine as "the most exciting, expertly assembled flood scene in movie history." Under Eastwood's aegis, their stories connect with that of a London boy dealing with the death of his twin brother with almost paranormal agility.
Asked whether he was drawn to the subject because of his own aging, the 80-year-old auteur is having none of it.
If anything, he's more interested in the gender question. "Did your wife like the movie?" he asks. "Women seem to like to think about (the subject) more, whether they believe in the hereafter or not. I'm not sure what I think, but it's interesting to delve into. It's a what-if story, like most stories … I'd like to think I would have been attracted to this project 40 years ago. Of course, I had to prove myself as a movie actor first."
Organized religion is clearly not Eastwood's bag. His parents "were Protestant but belonged to no particular sect. If we lived in Redding, we went to a Methodist church, and in Oakland, a Presbyterian or interdenominational church. I lived in Hayward for a while with my grandmother because my parents were trying to get jobs, and in that era, they didn't have welfare or unemployment (so I) had to really scramble.
"I've always been, If I see it, I believe it," he said. "I guess it's an agnostic position. But it (the afterlife) is a subject people are curious about. I don't think I'm as curious about it as I was at a younger age, but I'm curious enough to do a story like this.
"I remember when I was very, very young; my dad took me in the Pacific Ocean off Santa Monica. I was riding on his shoulders, and a big wave came along and knocked him down, and me off him … It certainly wasn't a near-death experience like Cécile had in the movie, but I remember the colors vividly, being underwater and swirling around, as a panicky little kid. For an adult who knows they're in deep trouble, it's a whole other thing."
Matt Damon's character lives in a lonely guy apartment that doesn't seem too different from one of Dirty Harry's old abodes.
Although Damon's character was in Chicago in the original script, his scenes in Hereafter were shot in San Francisco for "very practical" reasons, Eastwood said.
"He became available in January and I said, 'January in San Francisco can be very nice. On the other hand, January in Chicago is not the best time to be there.' Selfishly, it's close to home, and I do have ties there …" But the lure of the past goes only so far.
After our talk, Eastwood headed to Los Angeles to work on a Dave Brubeck documentary airing on Turner Classic Movies on Dec. 6, Brubeck's 90th birthday, then to the New York Film Festival, which Hereafter closed, before taking a break.
Brief, of course.
He's already launched his next project, a biopic about J. Edgar Hoover and his sidekick Clyde Tolson, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, with a script by Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. Will it address the rumors about Hoover and Tolson's relationship?
"Nobody knows," Eastwood said. "Some speculate that it was asexual, some that it wasn't. They'll have to draw their own conclusions. I'd rather have them do that, so you're not just throwing something at them, saying, 'This is what it was.'"
It's his credo: Show, don't tell.
"(Director) Don Siegel used to say, 'I've worked on so many movies where people have come in and wanted to kill it with improvements,'" he said. "I want to get that first impression from the actors. I may go back and do another take, and a take after that, but I don't want to tamper with things before I have a chance to see it."
The Hollywood veteran is, er, agnostic, about Hereafter's commercial potential.
"At this point in my life, I'm not going after some particular demographic to make money," he said. "I like telling adult stories; I guess I like telling stories I'd like to see."
"There are kids who can't go anywhere now without texting on BlackBerries. If people are going to see this movie, they should be willing to submerge themselves in it." He pauses. "If not, they should see something else."
At this point, it's ventured, Eastwood should be able to write his own ticket.
"Sometimes," he laughs. "If you wanted to do Dirty Harry coming out of retirement, they might jump a little higher than for Million Dollar Baby. They said, 'It's a movie about a girl boxer?' I said, 'No, it's a love story.'

 
Below: Hereafter was shown at the 48th New York Film Festival. Clint, Dina and Matt were there for the film's screening on Oct. 10th 2010


Clint talks about his movie Hereafter, Matt talks about Clint
GAYLE MacDONALD, Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010


Clint Eastwood pulls up a chair and slides his lean, 6-foot-4 frame alongside that of his friend Matt Damon, whom he slaps good-naturedly on the back. He’s here to chat about his latest film, Hereafter, a cinematic exploration of the eternal question: Is there life after death?

It’s a weighty subject for a balmy September afternoon. But before delving into the existentialist meat of it all, Eastwood cracks a joke about the real reason Damon initially turned down the lead role in this film.

“Sure, he’s been busy – busy siring children,” says Eastwood, who is referring to the fact that Damon and his wife, Luciana Barroso, are expecting their third child (she also has a daughter from an earlier marriage).

“But finally he acquiesced and came back [to us] after Christmas,” adds the 80-year-old. “So we shot his segment in San Francisco and then headed back to England to do the conclusion.”

Damon, who previously collaborated with Eastwood on the South African rugby film Invictus, simply grins at the older man seated to his left. Then he offers his explanation.

“I turned it down only because I didn’t think I could pull it off with this other movie [The Adjustment Bureau] on the go. Somehow all my stuff got crammed together,” he says. “But it all worked out. I love working with Clint. He’s decisive, he doesn’t dwell on things, and he keeps the train headed somewhere. Too often, directors fall into the trap of second-guessing and fiddling with something forever. Clint pulls the trigger and moves on.”

Dressed in a golf shirt and pressed pants, Eastwood comes across as a calm but still imposing guy. Unlike many celebrities who surround themselves with “their people,” Clint – as he introduces himself, with a firm handshake – prefers to saunter around the room, playing a jazzy ditty on a nearby piano, and later, grabbing a snack off a communal table of grub.

Despite his age, Eastwood remains one of this generation’s most prolific directors. Since his 1992 Oscar-winning film Unforgiven, he’s churned out 15 feature films. Hereafter is his 32nd as a director.

Damon, now 40, refers to Hereafter as “Clint Eastwood’s French film.” And there is no question the script is a cerebral departure for a man who normally focuses his camera on taut action and real-life grit.

Eastwood agrees it’s not his norm. But that, he adds, is precisely the point. Over the course of eight decades, he’s learned to like “trying on new things.

“I used to do sequels, but I’m past that. In my younger years I did more violent stuff, but now I’m concerned there’s too much violence in film,” says the man who played Dirty Harry. “But I liked the idea of telling three separate stories in one film. And I liked Peter Morgan’s script. This film explores the notion of an afterlife, but it doesn’t give any definitive answers.”

Hereafter follows three geographically disparate people who have been traumatized by close encounters with death. Damon is a Bay Area psychic, newcomer Frankie McLaren is a London youngster mourning the death of his twin, and Belgium-born actress Cécile de France is a Paris-based journalist whose life changes after she is almost killed in the 2004 tsunami.

Eastwood says the core of the story – filmed in London, Paris, Hawaii and San Francisco – is the simplest of questions: What’s next? “We don’t know what’s on the other side, but on this side, it’s final,” he says. “People have their beliefs about what’s there or what’s not there, but those are all hypotheticals. Nobody knows until you get there.”

“I’ve talked to people,” he adds, “who claim to have had near-death experiences, and they paint a similar picture. But I don’t know. I haven’t been there. And I don’t intend to go there before my time.”

Damon says Eastwood’s directorial style is as to-the-point as the man himself. “He gives the kind of direction that he would want as an actor. And he’s been acting longer than –”

“Don’t say God!” Eastwood interrupts, causing Damon to burst out laughing.

“I was going to say,” Damon continues, “he’s been acting longer than most of the actors he’s working with, so he’s got an immense amount of knowledge about how to do it, what’s helpful, what’s not helpful. As a director for 30 years, Clint also knows how to create an environment that works for his crew. He knows everybody’s jobs, and how to make it easier. As a result, everybody feels like they get to do their best work.”

“And he gets you home at a reasonable hour, too. I just wish he wouldn’t yell so much,” Damon adds.

Hereafter’s international cast also includes Jay Mohr, Bryce Dallas Howard, Marthe Keller, Thierry Neuvic and Derek Jacobi. Eastwood, an accomplished jazz pianist, composed much of the soundtrack for Hereafter. As he approaches his 81st birthday this May, Eastwood muses that now was likely “the right time” for him to finally take on a film about mortality. But he figures he’ll be around for a while yet.
“Hereafter explores life after death, but it also measures time. And in this MTV generation that we live in – where everything has to be immediate and over with – measuring time is something I still like to embrace,” he says, his weathered face crinkling into a grin.

Below: Hereafter U.S. Billboard

Friday, 1 October 2010

Vintage Clint Eastwood PSA 1969 for the Will Rogers Institute

We have been fortunate to see some wonderful vintage material of late and this new discovery continues to see that trend is set to continue. From 1969 here is a wonderful colour PSA which would have been circulated in cinemas at the time. More than $90 million has been raised in movie theaters across the country for pulmonary research, neonatal ventilators and free educational materials.
Thanks goes to The Will Rogers Institute. Please visit them at www.wrinstitute.org
Click below to view this great piece of historic film