Monday 27 September 2021

The Dollar trilogy at the Cineteca di Bologna 2014

The Dollar trilogy at the Cineteca di Bologna 2014

Here is the complete set of 3 original posters from the Cineteca di Bologna Leone festival of 2014. The event was held for the release of the newly restored versions of Sergio Leone’s 3 classic westerns. Each of the 1 sheet posters measure approximately 70 x 100 cm (27 x 39 inches) and are based on the original artwork by Michelangelo Papuzza. Also (Left) is the festival poster featuring all 3 Dollar titles with their screening dates: 

A Fistful of Dollars from June 19th 2014 
For a Few Dollars More from July 3rd 2014
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly July 17th 2014 

Finding Just one of these posters is hard enough – managing to obtain all three of them together is incredibly rare. 
My thanks to Davy Triumph for the use of his posters.
(Below: The three individual 1-Sheet posters)

Saturday 25 September 2021

Internal memo from January 1984 concerning Unforgiven

This is a wonderful piece of history regarding Clint’s award winning film Unforgiven (1992). There’s a couple of remarkable things about this memo which really stands out. Firstly, it’s the date of January 1984. Clint had previously spoken out regarding the project which dated way back to 1976. Infact, the project had previously been owned by Francis Ford Coppola, who went as far as to meet with John Malkovich and offer him the role of William Munny. Malkovich recalls:

"The offer was not very serious, thank God! I say that for myself and the poor public, and for Clint, absolutely! I would have been a total, total failure. Total! Who would've wanted to see that? I wouldn't! I would've just been acting-schmacting. There are some things you can only have with a kind of mythic figure which Clint is." 

Clint had said that Malpaso had acquired it after the rights had expired adding that he put it away in a drawer as he had several other projects to do and that he felt he needed to mature more into the role and perhaps wasn’t of an old enough age to portray the character. So the date is very significant on this piece.

Secondly, is the title. At the time of Unforgiven’s release, information concerning the film’s original title was circulating - which was The William Munny Killings - and was developed under that title during pre production. However, before that (and especially at the early development stages) it was known as The Cut-Whore Killings or ‘Killing’ - as it is referred to on the document. 

Lastly, and rather ironically, is the content - which certainly raises an eyebrow (and a smile). The memo is addressed to Clint (with copies to Fritz Manes) from Sonia Chernus (1909–1990), an associate of Clint’s which dated back to the days of Rawhide (as story assistant). She was also involved with the famous Clint Eastwood Meets Mister Ed TV show of 1962 and was also credited as one of the writers on The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). 

I use the term ‘irony’ of course as Sonia Chernus obviously hated the entire concept of the Unforgiven project, at least in these very early days. Her distaste for David Webb Peoples script was blatant to say the least, even though he had written the Oscar nominated film The Day After Trinity (1980) and co-written Blade Runner (1982). At one point she practically advises Clint to throw it in the bin. Well thankfully Clint thought otherwise, and when developed and made as Unforgiven, the film became a critical and commercial giant winning multiple Oscars along the way.

Irony in this case seems to be a double-edged sword - as Ms Chernus died some 2 years before Unforgiven’s release and never lived to see the overwhelming success that the film became. Although it’s a long shot, I like to think that Clint (out of respect for Chernus and her opinions of the script) might have just kept the project in the drawer, and decided to retrieve it only after her passing? But I’m speculating and probably have one foot in dreamland! 

The memo however is certainly fascinating. I have had it on file for a number of years now. I think it originally turned up for auction - but never followed it through to see if it sold and/or what the final price was. I also wanted to digitally restore it to some degree and generally clean it up. I have posted both the before and after here - for the purists and admirers of ‘warts and all’ pieces.

Thursday 23 September 2021

Dollar Quad Poster mock ups

Dollar Quad Poster mock ups

I recently found these in a large picture file which I have been slowly working through. The world of poster mock-ups is a really curious entity. It is often just a harmless bit of fun where amateur artists and designers provide alternative concepts to the original official designs issued by the studios. We have a host of examples here

So, I recently re-discovered these 4 mock up quads from A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. Their concept was obviously inspired from the official A Fistful of Dollars 4K cinema release of 2018 – with their superb, gritty monochrome designs. What has always impressed me about these mock up designs is that they are just so damn good. I guess a lot of it has to do with the advances of technology – where one can just sit in front of a PC or Laptop and roll off one of these beautiful examples in no time at all. 

Of course, there were a few who didn’t like the 4K experience of A Fistful of Dollars. I think immediately of maverick director Quentin Tarantino (who was invited to help present the film in Cannes) and claimed that seeing it left him ‘depressed’. 

‘I just had a really uncomfortable experience in Cannes […] because they had the 50th anniversary of ‘Fistful Of Dollars’. They showed this 4K restoration. I have an IB Technicolor, a beautiful Techniscope print of ‘Fistful of Dollars’ —I could have brought that’ 

That statement by Tarantino always brings a smile to my face – like we can all be afforded the luxury of owning an IB Technicolor, Techniscope print of A Fistful of Dollars, right?

Nevertheless, I know the director is a fan, and loves movie posters. So while he has some issues with the 4K presentation, I’m pretty positive he could certainly live with these mock up posters should they had existed in the real world. 

I have posted the official 4K release poster (for comparison) at the top, followed by the four mock up designs which were recreated in the same unique style. 

(below: This first mock up actually features a shot from For a Few Dollars More)

Hang ‘em High Contact sheet from title sequence

Hang ‘em High Contact sheet from title sequence

Here’s a rare contact sheet from Clint’s first American film after returning back from making the Dollar trilogy in Italy and Spain. 

This sheet shows several shots from the title sequence of Hang 'em high (1967) where Clint’s character Jed Cooper is brutally beaten, hung and left to die. The sheet offers a rare glimpse into this sequence – I wonder who still has the original negatives?  

Rare Cameo Parkway Records flyer

Rare Cameo Parkway Records flyer

Here is a very nice piece of history kindly sent to me by our U.S. correspondent Kevin Walsh. In the 1960’s Clint enjoyed a brief career as a recording artist due mainly to his success from the TV series Rawhide. 

One of his single releases was Rowdy / Cowboy Wedding Song. This flyer is a nice piece as it also headlines the release date of the single and its catalogue number – the release date being February 19th, 1963. As a point of interest, the record was only released in the U.S. with a generic studio sleeve, whilst here in the UK; it was treated to a nice picture sleeve (below). This flyer must also originate from the UK, as it clearly illustrates that Rowdy is the leading A side. Still to this day, (and probably due to that picture sleeve), most people still believe that Rowdy was the A-side. Yet, on the U.S. version of the 45, it was in fact Cowboy Wedding Song which was the A side and Rowdy was instead used as the B-side of the single.

More of Clint’s history as a recording artist can be found here in an original piece I wrote for the Archive back in July, 2017.   

Rare Bill Gold concept art for Honkytonk Man

Here’s a very special item. As most will know, the finished artwork for Clint’s 1982 film Honkytonk Man consisted of a drawn / sketch type design of Clint and Kyle. However, Clint’s long-time associate Bill Gold had already made some original concepts featuring a photo image and an entirely different font for the titles. Many might argue that this is a far more appealing design – but it wasn’t meant to be. However a similar design (probably from the same photo shoot) was used for both the LP soundtrack cover and the paperback tie-in book. This unused piece of original art is approx. 20” x 30” and mounted on board and originates from Bill Gold’s design studio. 

My kindest thanks to Davy Triumph for this lovely piece of movie history. 

Wednesday 22 September 2021

The passing of friend and author Patrick Agan

The passing of friend and author Patrick Agan 

Some sad news for the Eastwood circle of friends:

I went to catch up with an old friend earlier last week, the author Patrick Agan. Patrick’s book on Eastwood ‘The Man behind the Myth’ was the first book I ever bought on Clint and was a true inspiration. It was only the paperback version that arguably most people had from around 1977, but later in life Patrick became a real and genuine friend and we stayed in touch. Later he would send me a first edition hardback copy of that book with a beautiful dedication inside, and then he donated a great deal of his original research material over to me to hold, saying he wanted it to go to a good home. Patrick was a truly lovely man. I had not heard from Patrick in a little while, so set out to drop him a line and generally catch up - as Cry Macho was about to be released – it was only then that I learnt the sad news that Patrick had passed away on July 4th, 2018 at the age of 75.

I really couldn’t believe it. I guess we sometimes just take it for granted that friends are always going to be there – and of course the damn years pass so fast...

Anyway - I thought I would just let the fans know. I wanted to put a little something together here on the Archive, just in order to honour his memory, and because of his overall inspiration and kindness. RIP my friend, you’ll be sorely missed.

Flashback: Clint and Don’s The Beguiled

Flashback: Clint and Don’s The Beguiled
As we have been celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Don and Clint’s Dirty Harry, I didn’t want us all to forget that it wasn’t their only film together of 1971. The Beguiled is also a wonderful movie. I remember when interviewing Lalo Schifrin (who also provided the score for The Beguiled), and him stating that he thought it was Don Siegel’s best. Clint was also a great admirer of the finished movie despite being disappointed by the way Universal chose to market the film. A great deal of the marketing appeared to have Clint holding a gun and thereby suggesting it was much more action orientated rather than simply a damn good drama. One of the poster campaigns (the French poster Les Proies, see above) and the Italian design especially, did not feature Clint holding a pistol – although an alternative French design did also appear with him holding a gun. In fact, The Beguiled was very well received in Europe. So in a small celebration and in remembering The Beguiled’s 50th Anniversary – I thought I would post the French set of 12 original Lobby cards. I have only just recently (and at last) purchased this set, so it is the first time they have been featured here on the Archive. I will of course also be posting them on The Beguiled’s dedicated page here.

Friday 17 September 2021

Cry Macho Critics Reviews

I’m setting up this page for critical reviews of Cry Macho. As always, I’ll be posting a selection of both positive and negative in order to hopefully produce a balanced, overall opinion. 
Of course, at the end of the day it’s just one person’s individual opinion and analysis -  ultimately, and as fans, I’m sure we are more than capable of drawing our own conclusions. Eastwood fans know what to expect, and as a result, we’re rarely disappointed. Critics by nature love to critique - so let them have their day in the spotlight. But remember, it’s never the final word, so don’t ever let reviews stand in between or spoil your own personal enjoyment…

Clint Eastwood’s dull 70s drama evokes no tears ⅖ stars
The Guardian, Benjamin Lee, Wed 15th Sep 2021. 
The director’s latest film, in which he stars as a former rodeo star who travels to Mexico to save a friend’s son, is an inert disappointment. 
Cry Macho, the new 70s-set film from the world’s most prolific nonagenarian director, Clint Eastwood, has endured an almost 50-year journey to the screen, a journey that, after actually watching Cry Macho, is of far more interest than what’s ended up in front of us. After his screenplay was rejected in the 70s, writer N Richard Nash turned it into a novel before then, pitching the exact same screenplay, which this time got bought by Fox. Eastwood was offered it in the late 80s but decided to star in The Dead Pool instead, while offering to direct Robert Mitchum in the role. In the 90s, Roy Scheider signed on but production was never completed. Over time, Pierce Brosnan and Burt Lancaster were also attached before in 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger picked it as his next role but stepped back when he became governor. As his term ended, he announced that it would be his next project but just as production was set to start, his affair with a household employee who bore his child caused it to fold.
One might call the project cursed, a stop-and-start conveyor belt that frankly should have stopped decades prior. Eastwood’s decision to reboard the project in 2020 for a film ambitiously made during the latter half of the year with pandemic restrictions is an understandable one – it’s a film that speaks to themes both visually and textually that have interested him for years – but it’s also one that’s crucially misjudged. It’s unclear how much of the script has been tweaked over time – the writing credit includes Nash and also Nick Schenk, who wrote Gran Torino and The Mule – but it seems like the right answer would be “not enough”. Eastwood, who turned 91 this year, plays a character who feels written as much younger (as implied by the many actors who have briefly been attached before – Scheider was 59 and Schwarzenegger was 64) and so such a giant leap should be supported by major changes in the writing. But with women half his age begging him to sleep with them and a physically strenuous job that would seem difficult to manage at his age, the film starts off with a handicap, one that it’s never quite able to get over.

Eastwood plays the improbably named Mike Milo, an ex-rodeo star whose career ended after a severe back injury. He retreated behind the scenes to breed and train horses, a job that in the opening he gets fired from. Bizarrely right after letting him go, his former boss (a hammy Dwight Yoakam) hires him to head to Mexico to bring his troubled 13-year-old son Rafo (Mexican TV star Eduardo Minett) back from his mother. Milo agrees and after finding the kid in the middle of a cockfight, he starts the journey back home, with a number of potholes on the way.
We’re already in loosely similar territory to both Gran Torino and The Mule but thankfully, Eastwood isn’t playing yet another “get off my lawn” bigot, whose vileness is played for uncomfortable humour, instead he’s just haunted by the career he lost and the family who died years prior. He’s well-intentioned, a PG grouch who ultimately wants and hopes for the best and the role allows for his natural charm to shine even if it’s only used in short supply. There’s also a refreshing economy with his relationship to the kid, the pair bonding with ease without an extended “you’re not my real dad” tension. The two have a comfortable chemistry but the script fails to give them enough substance to work with, just a string of perfunctory and increasingly uninteresting conversations about very little of interest. There are easily signposted emotional beats that the film fails to hit and what could have been an engaging, if simple, tale becomes strangely lifeless.

What’s most surprising about some of Eastwood’s later films is their inefficient storytelling. What some of his best, and even some of his more middling, films share in common is an old-fashioned sturdiness that glides us from first to second to third act with a rigid professionalism. Instead Cry Macho is dogged by a slack pace and an inertness that overwhelms, scene after scene of nothing, not a funny line or a moving moment or an unresolved conflict, just nothing. Eastwood seems to think he can coast on the scenery and the goodness of the characters alone but it’s glaringly not enough, its heart might be on its sleeve but it’s barely pumping.
The film acknowledges age but not advanced age and, as in The Mule, Eastwood plays a character who much younger women are unable to control themselves over, a strangely egotistic throughline (this time he is at least able to avoid having multiple threesomes). The Macho of the title is the name of Rafo’s rooster and does allow for some discussion over the value placed on hyper-masculinity. There’s a minor moment of self-reflection near the end, as Milo looks back on the decisions he’s made and the vulnerability he took too long to embrace. It’s an almost fascinating meta speech from Eastwood but also a frustrating one, giving the film a sudden depth that had previously been absent. There’s more room here for lived-in melancholy, briefly teased in that scene, but it’s left empty and so when big emotions do arrive, or at least when they’re supposed to, Cry Macho will leave all eyes in the house as dry as the scenery.
Cry Macho is released in US cinemas and on HBO Max on 17th September and in the UK on 12th November. 

The Good, the Bad and the Poultry
The New York Times, By A.O. Scott, Sept. 16th, 2021
In his latest film, Clint Eastwood drives across Mexico with a troubled young man and a combative rooster.
Mike Milo is a former rodeo rider and horse trainer — an ornery old cuss with a complicated past and a soft spot for children and animals. He’s a grouch but also a professional, with a deep knowledge of his craft and a flinty sense of honor. To put it in simpler terms, he’s played by Clint Eastwood.

Eastwood also directed “Cry Macho,” in a stripped-down, laid-back style that perfectly suits Mike’s approach to life. Sometimes in Eastwood’s films — going all the way back to “Play Misty for Me” — there’s daylight separating filmmaker and star, a palpable, if often subtle difference of perspective between the laconic, narrow-eyed man onscreen and the sly, adventurous artist behind the camera. This time, maybe not so much. Which is just fine.
Mike has a risky job to do but, but he approaches his duties with no particular urgency, preferring to drive slowly and take in the scenery. Eastwood, notionally committed to doing something in the angry-dad revenge-rescue genre, uses the plot (supplied by Nick Schenk and N. Richard Nash’s script, based on a novel by Nash) as an excuse for a leisurely excursion through a picturesque landscape. Mike is on a mission, yes, racing the clock and pursued by dangerous hombres on both sides of the law. But that doesn’t prevent him from rolling into a quiet Mexican hamlet and remarking to his companions: “This looks like an interesting town. Let’s check it out.”

Those companions are a 13-year-old boy named Rafo (Eduardo Minett), and Rafo’s prized fighting rooster, Macho, a noble bird who gives the film its title and its theme. Rafo, abandoned by his Texan father and abused by his Mexican mother, is attached both to Macho and to an ideal of tough, strutting masculinity. One of Mike’s tasks is to offer, by precept and example, an alternative way of being a man. Nothing too soft, mind you — this is still Clint Eastwood we’re talking about — but a more patient, less furious approach to life.

“This macho thing is overrated,” Mike says. “You think you have all the answers, but then you get older and realize you don’t have any. By the time you figure it out, it’s too late.” What that amounts to is a benign form of fatalism, a humility that the rest of the movie upholds. The button-pushing and liberal-baiting that flared in “The Mule” and “Richard Jewell” aren’t much in evidence here, and the canonical Eastwood persona — the avenger of innocence who dwells in legal and moral gray zones — is in a state of semiretirement. There is evil in the universe, but it might not be entirely his problem.

The opening scenes suggest otherwise. Rafo’s father, Howard (Dwight Yoakam), a big shot Texas rancher and Mike’s former boss, dispatches Mike to Mexico to collect the boy. Though Mike doesn’t much like Howard, he feels a sense of obligation, since Howard helped him get back on his feet after a series of personal tragedies.
Once across the Rio Grande, Mike finds Howard’s “nutcase” ex-wife in her bedroom, and their son at a cockfighting ring. It’s 1980, by the way. The existence of GPS, cellphones and heavy security on the United States-Mexican border would spoil the atmosphere. Mike, Rafo and Macho light out in a series of Detroit junkers — mostly stolen, though nobody seems to mind — pursued by mom’s nasty boyfriend and the occasional federales.

Now and then, Mike calls Howard from a pay phone. The whole project turns out to be more complicated than it seemed at first. “Don’t trust anyone” is Rafo’s mantra. That may be too sweeping, but “don’t trust anyone played by Dwight Yoakam” is a pretty good rule of thumb. As the old man, the boy and the chicken make their way down the highway, you can anticipate the turns the story will take.

But not quite. The twists arrive, but not with the impact you might expect. What started as a thriller takes a long detour into the pastoral, as car trouble strands our travelers in a quiet village with a sweet cantina run by a widow named Marta (Natalia Traven). She and Mike get up to some heavy “Bridges of Madison County”-style flirting, while Rafo spends time with one of her granddaughters. There are some wild horses that need breaking, and other animals to look at, and whatever else needs to be dealt with can just wait awhile.
Maybe this will make you restless. Maybe you want car chases, gunfights, quotable catchphrases and somber meditations on violence, justice and the American West. If so, there is a whole Clint Eastwood filmography to peruse. This one is something different — a deep cut for the die-hards, a hangout movie with nothing much to prove and just enough to say, with a pleasing score (by Mark Mancina) and some lovely desert scenery (shot by Ben Davis). If the old man’s driving, my advice is to get in and enjoy the ride.

Cry Macho
Roger, Glenn Kenny, September 15th, 2021
Clint Eastwood will be 92 next May. 
Now. To take a particular kind of stock of this fact. The Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira lived to be 106. And he completed his final film in 2015, the year he died. So when we are talking about Eastwood’s ostensibly late filmography, and we consider the speediness with which he completes his films—which some insist also yields slapdash results, the fake baby from 2014’s “American Sniper” standing as Exhibit A—we can consider that he may actually have another 14 or 15 movies in him yet. That’s worth noting when we’re talking, as we are now, of his “late” filmography.

Because even if Eastwood keeps up his filmmaking pace for another decade or more, “Cry Macho,” which he directed from a long kicking-around script by Nick Schenk and N. Richard Nash, and which began as a 1975 novel by Nash (and this movie adapts it very loosely, to say the least), will end up one of his more unusual films. Its title and trailer suggest a potentially blistering, and likely rueful, action thriller. The movie itself is something wholly other. 

For its first 20 minutes or so, one may look through the fingers of a facepalm trying to figure out just what it is. Gorgeous vistas of Western sunrises and starkly beautiful desert plains alternate with story-establishing scenes in very awkwardly on-the-nose registers. Starting in 1979, the movie depicts Eastwood’s Mike Milo showing up at the horse ranch of Dwight Yoakam’s Howard Polk well after the lunch hour. Howard tells Mike he’s late, and Mike says “for what?” Howard then lays into Mike with scrolls-worth of expository dialogue, evoking Mike the one-time rodeo star, mentioning the inevitable career-ending “accident,” and so on. “Before the pills ... before the booze,” Yoakam proclaims in decidedly declamatory tones, dropping the hammer with “You’re a loss to no one.” He fires Mike and then we cut to a year later, when, um, he re-hires Mike—asking him to go to Mexico and kidnap his now-teenage son, who lives with his hard-partying mother Lara in an abusive household. Mike takes the shady gig—he owes Howard still, for something.
Things remain awkward when Mike gets to Mexico and finds Lara in a mansion, attended by two bodyguards, and telling Mike he’s welcome to the kid—a gambler, drinker, and cockfighter named Rafa (Eduardo Minett), and not even 14 yet—if Mike can find him. The hotsy-totsy Irresponsible Mother even tries to lure Mike to her bed. Which is a bit of a stretch. One thing Eastwood’s continuing career on screen is teaching us is that there are discrete gradations of old. As written, Mike Milo ought to be a character in his late sixties to mid-seventies. As good as Eastwood may look, 90 or 91 is not late sixties to mid-seventies. In matters of personal intimacy, even if the spirit and the flesh are equally up to the task, the most game woman on earth is going to think twice about jumping the bones of a nonagenarian, lest she shatter them. 

You’re probably wondering when this movie gets good enough to warrant my rating. To be perfectly frank, it does require some patience if not indulgence. Mike discovers Rafa; Rafa is indeed a cockfighter and he’s named his rooster “Macho.” They make it out of a police raid on a cockfight and hit the road, one of Lara’s bodyguards trailing them. Rafa is wide-eyed at the prospect of living on a Texas horse ranch—as Howard assured Mike, the kid is crazy about cowboys. As the two get to know each other, Mike expresses to Rafa his hard-bitten skepticism about over-valuing toughness—“macho” itself, as it was popularly called both north and south of the border in the period in which the film is set. This is all pleasing and a little predictable.

Where the film really blossoms is after the mid-section. After some narrow evasions of both bodyguards and cops, and some hasty car-switching, Mike and Rafa find themselves in a small Mexican town not too far from the border. They take shelter in a homey restaurant owned by a middle-aged woman named Marta (Natalia Traven) and later in a small shrine to the Virgin Mary on the outskirts of the town. The two come upon a horse ranch, where Mike offers his services in breaking the wild ones. He also teaches Rafa to ride, saying he won’t be much use in Texas if he doesn’t know how to ride. 
Mike is good with animals, so soon the town locals start treating him as if he’s a vet. Mike and Rafa meet Marta’s grandchildren, one of whom is deaf; Mike can sign, and he makes an immediate, vital connection with the little girl.

These small events transpire in beautifully shot, unhurried scenes. This is Eastwood’s version of pastoral. Mike pieces his ruined life back together in a sense. He finds pleasure in being of service to a community. The professed agnostic takes Marta’s hand when she prays to begin a meal, and likes it. The simple sincerity about what’s worthwhile in life is the movie’s reason for being. Nothing more and nothing less.

With a return to Westerns, a sunset rodeo for Clint Eastwood at 91
CHICAGO TRIBUNE, by Michael Phillips, September 15th, 2021
This “macho thing,” says Clint Eastwood in his latest film, is “overrated.” Same with grit, he says.

What? What is this, some sort of rickety, sweet-tempered road movie about an old man, a boy and a rooster?

“Cry Macho” is exactly that, in addition to a few other things. It is Eastwood’s 39th film as credited director. If you don’t count “The Mule,” his sidewinding, highly profitable 2018 drug-runner biopic that traveled similar backroads to those found here, it’s his first Western since “Unforgiven” nearly 30 years ago. His character, Mike Milo, is a retired rodeo rider; the love interest, as Old Male Hollywood used to call it, is a Mexican cantina owner played by Natalia Traven, who is nearly 40 years younger than Eastwood. He’s 91. And making movies.
One half of Eastwood’s long, rangy directorial career subverts or at least complicates the other half. You might even say it’s atoning for it. Eastwood has always ducked the question of whether he’s trying to “say” anything about American machismo in all its cathartic, coolly vicious Dirty Harry glories and limitations (a man’s gotta know his limitations, as Harry once said). Yet here we are, in “Cry Macho,” a story about a man, a boy and a rooster on a road paved with regrets. And there is Eastwood, essentially denouncing what made him so many millions along the way — even if his best work (and best scripts, not incidentally) have questioned that macho stuff all along.

Parts of “Cry Macho,” set in 1979, are blasé in their it’ll-do artlessness; a late-breaking car crash, for example, is fakey enough to make you start a Patreon to raise money for a one-day reshoot. The first scene lays out the story premise with extreme clunkiness. Dwight Yoakam plays Mike’s longtime rodeo boss, the Texas rancher slagging off Mike’s beaten-down rodeo veteran before we know anything about him. The screenplay comes from Nick Schenk (”Gran Torino”), freely adapting the 1975 novel, itself based on a screenplay, by the late N. Richard Nash, best known for the 1950s stage favorite and film “The Rainmaker.” The exposition is as blunt as it gets. In a few abrupt lines, Yoakam clues us in regarding Mike’s late wife and child, killed in a car accident, which led to a downward spiral into alcohol, pills and the end of Mike’s career.
Now it’s time for Mike to repay what he owes his belligerent boss for supporting him in his dotage. “Cry Macho” sends Mike from Texas to Mexico in order to kidnap the boss’s son, Rafo (Eduardo Minett), and bring him over the border to his estranged father. The boy hates his abusive, promiscuous mother, and is living on the streets, making what he can at the cockfights with his pet rooster named Macho. With snarling henchmen in pursuit, Mike and Rafo head back towards Texas, accompanied by the bird.

Eastwood nearly made “Cry Macho” in 1988. He has claimed in interviews he wasn’t old enough for Mike at the time, although in Nash’s novel — a lot grimier and rougher than the movie, which has a new, gentler though mighty abrupt ending — Mike is 38 years old. Whatever. Eastwood got to it when he got to it.

The midsection of “Cry Macho,” a lyric small-town interlude, lets the plot nap for a while, as Mike teaches Rafo how to break wild mustangs, and Mike and Rafo come into the saintly good graces of the widow Marta (Traven) and her grandchildren. It’s far-fetched — a fairy tale, straight up — but it’s the best part of the movie. The whole of it would work better with a stronger young actor as Rafo (and better dialogue for him). The gods of plausibility were napping on this project; out of nowhere, after establishing their linguistic barriers, Mike’s fluent in Spanish and Rafo’s a whiz in English. The narrative deviations toward the end from Nash’s novel make less and less sense. Yet they, too, go into the “whatever” column, if “Cry Macho” exerts any kind of hold on your sense of nostalgia.

Eastwood’s career remains a marvel: Well into his 80s, “American Sniper” grossed half-a-billion worldwide, pointing to the America First brand of patriotism (the nice word for it) we’d come to know so well during the Trump years. That film also had some startling, honest moments of reckoning, in its depiction (however selective) of the trauma of wartime and the psychic cost of bloodshed. “Cry Macho” feels like a tacit corrective. The 1979 story setting places it around the time Eastwood was beginning to experiment with material (”Bronco Billy,” “Honkytonk Man”) and to figure out how many different shades of messed-up tough guy he had in him as an actor.
It’s far too much to claim that “Cry Macho” belongs anywhere near work from Eastwood’s greatest streaks — the 1992-1995 run of “Unforgiven,” “A Perfect World” (his most provocative machismo fable) and “The Bridges of Madison County,” which remains one of the best film adaptations made from one of the worst books ever written. “Unforgiven and “Million Dollar Baby” won Oscars. Since that run, the onetime Man With No Name has made huge commercial hits like “Gran Torino,” one bizarre, undervalued biopics (”J. Edgar,” a repressed movie about sexual repression) and, for the hell of it, a musical: “Jersey Boys,” which turned out to be not Eastwood’s thing.

“Cry Macho” may be fond and foolish in equal measure, but it has a few grace notes to remember, in addition to a fine gallery of images of Eastwood in silhouette, at dusk, against a big sky, alone with his thoughts. “Look where you’re going,” the cowboy tells the kid during a riding lesson, “and go where you’re looking.” It’s a throwaway moment. But it’s the quintessence of Clint, and I’ll remember it for a while.

Clint Eastwood plays the last cowboy in blunt, elegiac Western
By Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly, September 17, 2021
At 91, Clint Eastwood is more than an actor; he's an institution, a bulwark, a base mineral. That granite squint — and all its history — hangs heavily over Cry Macho, a movie of such complete elemental Clint-ness that it feels in some ways like a summation of his whole career, and a requiem for it too. The story itself is pure Western pulp, a dime-store roundelay of banditos, lost dreams, and femme fatales. But the poignancy of watching him play the cowboy once more feels like its own exercise in a kind of collective connective remembering: a bygone vision of masculinity whose template he didn't just embody on screen for decades, but half-invented our idea of in the first place.
The first thing to know, maybe, is that the origins of Cry dates back nearly 50 years; a long and winding road whose lead casting at one point or another included Arnold Schwarzenegger, Roy Scheider, and even Eastwood himself, who passed on the role in the late 1980s. The second thing to know is that Macho is also the name of a chicken — specifically a prized rooster owned by the 12-year-old boy that Eastwood's Mike Milo, a washed-up Texas ranch hand and rodeo man, has been sent down to Mexico City to fetch. Though it's essentially more like a sanctioned kidnapping: His old boss Howard (Dwight Yoakam) hasn't seen his estranged son in years, but he wants to take him back from his abusive mother, and Mike — once a championship rider, until he broke his back and fell into pills and booze — owes him more than one favor.
Her child, the boy's angry, inebriated mother (Fernanda Urrejola) tells Mike when he gets there, is a lost cause: a savage hooligan who can't be tamed. But Rafo (Eduardo Minet), when he finds him at a back-alley cockfight, just seems like a lost kid who really loves his rooster. And so the pair begin their journey back toward the border, where various messy if somehow consistently surmountable complications ensue. Will the juvenile delinquent and the crusty bronco forge a bond? Does a horse poop hay?
As a director, Eastwood keeps his tone almost primordially simple; not for Macho are the murky moral calculations and defined character arcs of The Unforgiven, American Sniper, or even Gran Torino. As an actor, too, he allows himself certain outlandish vanities: Women, for one, can't seem to stop throwing themselves at Mike's feet in a fever of sexual need, and hardened criminals cower at his right hook. But there's a baseline sweetness to his interactions with Rafo, and something genuinely affecting in watching him lay down to sleep on a desert floor with his ten-gallon hat in his lap, or head down a dusty road with Macho strutting faithfully behind. His Mike is a man out of time: a lone-wolf reminder of a world that once was, and will most likely be lost when he goes. Grade: C+

Cry Macho Is Pure Clint Eastwood—and That's Mostly a Good Thing
To criticize Cry Macho—Clint Eastwood’s 39th or 40th movie as a director, depending on how you’re counting—is like picking on a cave painting because a buffalo’s legs aren’t portrayed realistically, to decry today’s sunset because yesterday’s was redder, to announce loudly that water just isn’t wet enough. The picture is so purely Eastwood—with all the good and bad that implies—it’s as if it had been drawn from his veins. Eastwood, 91, also stars, playing a seen-it-all rodeo rider and horse trainer, Mike Milo, who forges an unlikely friendship with a 13-year-old kid, Rafo (Eduardo Minett), teaching him a few lessons about masculinity along the way. (Hint: Being a man is not about being macho.)
The story is almost embarrassingly simple. But the picture slides by pleasantly enough like a stream in a Budd Boetticher movie, a calm place to take off your boots and set a spell as you reflect on the true meaning of manhood, the necessity of overcoming hidden heartache and the pleasures of finally, in your sunset years, succumbing to the love of a good woman. The plot, set in 1979, goes something like this: Mike’s old boss, rancher and rodeo owner Howard (Dwight Yoakam, always a welcome presence), is concerned that his son, Rafo—a boy he’s never really known, the result of a one-night stand—is being abused. He sends Mike to Mexico City, where Rafo lives with his mother; his instructions are to retrieve the boy, luring him with promises of his own horse and other fun stuff. A fistful of dollars in his pocket, Mike—who once had a family himself, now long gone—heads across the border. Rafo’s mother, Leta (Fernanda Urrejola), is a rich sex nymphomaniac who lives in a lavish house. (You can’t make this stuff up.) She tells Mike her son is no good—he’s a thief, and spends his nights at the cockfights—before appearing in a silky boudoir outfit, the better to lure Mike into her bed. (Somehow, you knew this was coming.)
Stalwart Mike resists. Besides, he’s already located Rafo—and met the boy’s prize rooster, a flinty, handsome creature named Macho—and senses that the kid isn’t as tough as he thinks he is. The two set off on a desert odyssey that involves stolen vehicles, some lessons in training wild horses, and pleasant days and evenings spent in a café owned by a kind, observant, gorgeous middle-aged widow named Marta (Natalia Traven). The sparks between Mike and Marta fly, or at least skitter toward one another with resolute, shuffleboard-style jauntiness.
Shot by Ben Davis, Cry Macho has a handsome, muted sheen: Its vistas of dusty purple clouds and ochre desert plains evoke warm winds and the slow passage of time. The material itself—written by Nick Schenck and N. Richard Nash—has some age to it: Eastwood first became aware of it some 40 years ago, and it bounced around Hollywood for decades with no luck, until Eastwood remembered it and sought to bring it to life.
And through it all, he pokes along with admirable energy. In his long and fertile career, Eastwood has sometimes been a great director and often just an O.K. one. But in recent years, movies like The Mule and Gran Torino have brought us some unexpected riches of crankiness. In these pictures, Eastwood no longer tries to hide his age, because he knows he no longer can. He confronts the indignities of old age with a surly, comforting growl. In Cry Macho, he’s slim and straight as a rod, and his every movement says, “Don’t worry about me, kid.” Damned if it doesn’t feel like a blessing—because who wants to have to worry about eternal legend Clint Eastwood?
I do wonder what 91-year-old actress could—or would—cast herself in a movie where she finds redemption and tender love with a man at least 30 years younger than she. The idea seems unimaginable, maybe partly because most spry 91-year-old women have a lot more on their minds than the pursuit of younger men—too many museums to go to, operas to attend, mahjongg games to play. But if Eastwood can get away with his old-dude fantasies, or even almost get away with them, why not? Sometimes a man has to believe he’s still got it, that the attractive younger señora wants nothing more than, for the rest of his days, to hold him close in a charming café lit by ultra-symbolic sunset. If this fantasy means so much to a man, it’s an act of kindness to let him have it.

Wednesday 15 September 2021

Cry Macho Featurette - CRY MACHO - A Director's Vision

Another great little featurette today from Warner Bros as the premiere of Clint’s new movie draws increasingly closer. This third featurette comes in a bit longer than the previous two at 6 minutes. From the amount of feedback and contact I’ve been receiving, Cry Macho seems to be the most anticipated Eastwood movie for a very long time. 


Tuesday 14 September 2021

At 91, Clint Eastwood throws a punch and rides a horse in his new movie. And he’s not ready to quit

By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times, September 12th, 2021.
CARMEL — Clint Eastwood has been directing himself and others longer than many of his colleagues have been alive. If he walks a little slower on-screen, he’s entitled.
Eastwood’s first film behind the camera, “Play Misty for Me,” came out half a century ago, and he’s still at it. At age 91, with his new “Cry Macho” set for a Sept. 17 release in theaters and on HBO Max, Eastwood — whose acting credits date to 1955 — is perhaps the oldest American ever to both direct and star in a major motion picture. But ask if anything is different between then and now and you get the verbal equivalent of an amused shrug.
“I never think about it,” Eastwood says, considering the question. “If I’m not the same guy, I don’t want to know anything about it. I might not like the new guy. I might think, ‘What am I doing with this idiot?’” He smiles at the thought.
Eastwood at 91 is like that, relaxed and at ease. Wearing tan pants and a blue patterned shirted, he settles into the sun in a secluded corner of Tehama, his 2,000-acre golf club-gated community accessed by winding roads worthy of a land-grant rancho. He’s game to talk about both his new film, “an odd movie in today’s world, kind of offbeat,” and the career that led up to it.
With a screenplay by Eastwood veteran Nick Schenk (“Gran Torino,” “The Mule”) and the late N. Richard Nash and based on Nash’s novel, the 1979-set “Cry Macho” tells the story of Mike Milo — “a broken-down ex-rodeo guy,” in Eastwood’s words — who, out of a combination of obligation and desperation, agrees to help his former boss (Dwight Yoakam) extricate his son (newcomer Eduardo Minett) from Mexico.
Like every Warner Bros. release this year, “Cry Macho” will be available to stream on HBO Max the same day as it appears in theatres, a situation Eastwood dryly dismisses as “not my favourite thing in the world. How that’s going to work out at all? I still don’t know.”
Given that it is an Eastwood film, “Cry Macho” features a certain amount of action and jeopardy, including the actor throwing a punch (“It might not be as good as I’ve thrown in the past but it was fun to do it”) and getting on a horse for the first time since “Unforgiven” three decades ago.
“The wrangler was worried. She was saying, ‘Be careful, be careful now.’ She was scared I’d end up on my rear end,” Eastwood remembers. “But if you treat the horse like a buddy, he’ll take care of you.”

Never a vain actor, Eastwood doesn’t make a big deal about playing a character old enough to be teased about taking naps, someone on whom the weight of years and injury is always visible. “I don’t look like I did at 20, so what?” he says. “That just means there are more interesting guys you can play.” Along that line, and despite everything that is familiar about it, “Cry Macho” has a different energy, more sweet-natured and earnest than is traditional for the filmmaker.
It’s a story that focuses on a protagonist who’s fed up with macho posturing while dealing with age and the possibility of change and renewal, all within the classic Eastwood frame. (It also features a rooster named Macho, played by 11 birds because, in the director’s words, “chickens are not the most versatile animals in the world.”)
It’s a mark of how different “Cry Macho” is from business as usual for Eastwood that an incident the director highlights in the filming involves not a stunt or an action set piece but the situation around a little girl who’d been cast as the granddaughter of one of the main characters, only to get bumped because she tested positive for COVID-19.
“But then the producer came to me and said the test was a false positive and we could use the girl after all,” Eastwood relates, smiling. “She was so elated, it was one of the happiest days we had on the whole picture.”
It’s one of the oddities of the project that “Cry Macho” was originally offered to Eastwood by producer Al Ruddy in 1988, but Eastwood’s response was, “I’m too young for this. Let me direct and we’ll get Robert Mitchum, an older dude.”
Mitchum did not work out, and other filmmakers toyed with the story with various stars in the role, including Arnold Schwarzenegger before and after his time as governor of California. “I always thought I’d go back and look at that. It was something I had to grow into,” Eastwood says. “One day, I just felt it was time to revisit it. It’s fun when something’s your age, when you don’t have to work at being older.”
That sense of trusting your instincts is a theme that comes up again and again, both in terms of what projects to do and how Eastwood the actor approaches a role. 
“I never thought of acting as an intellectual sport,” he says. “You don’t want to overthink something. You want it to be emotional. If you think about it too much, you can take it apart to the point where you don’t like it anymore. If you think about it four different ways, you forget what dragged you into it in the first place. It’s like somebody throwing a fast pitch across the plate. Just swing at it, step in and go.”

As to future projects, Eastwood admits, “I don’t have anything percolating at the moment,” but adds “I didn’t have anything percolating before this one. If something comes along where the story itself, the telling of it, is fun, I’m open to it.”
While initially, “the whole point of directing was something you can do as an older guy,” at this point, Eastwood says he keeps at it simply because “I just like it. I have nothing against other directors, but I might have a whole different take on things and I don’t want to be thinking, ‘Why did I give it to him?’”
As to acting, Eastwood admits being a bit conflicted, sometimes wondering, “What the hell am I still working for in my 90s? Are people going to start throwing tomatoes at you? I’ve gotten to the point where I wondered if that was enough, but not to the point where I decided it was. If you roll out a few turkeys, they’ll tell you soon enough.”

Very much a child of the Depression, Eastwood has said he’s grateful “not to be still bagging groceries at 37 cents an hour.” When I mention that line, the actor nods and says, “I still remember that job.”

“All through the Depression and the war, my growing-up years, my dad had all kinds of jobs. He went job to job and we traveled all over the state. He worked at a Standard Oil station at the corner of Sunset and Pacific Coast Highway, it’s not there anymore, and I remember him telling my mother when I was just a little kid that some ancient actor or other had come in to get gasoline.
“I wonder if my dad would have liked to have been an actor or a singer. He had a good voice. He and another fellow would perform at parties, but none of those breaks ever came his way.
“I remember when I told my father I was dropping out of L.A. City College to train to be an actor at Universal with a six-month option. He said, ‘Don’t get too wrapped up in that, it could be really disappointing.’ I said, ‘I think it’s worth a try.’ But I always remember it could have gone the other way.”

Photos at his Tehama Golf Club in Carmel-by-the-Sea (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times), from Cry Macho (Claire Folger / Warner Bros.)
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