Sunday, March 1, 2009

Gran Torino

Since 'Unforgiven' I have been a fan of Clint Eastwood, not withstanding his stand on the Iraq war. Although in 'Gran Torino' he and the two young Chinese/American actors do a wonderful job, the real protagonist in this movie is language. From the rude and angry to the rude and jovial to tenderness, the whole range of emotions is expressed by scores of racial slurs and other epithets. The strength of the movie is showing the code switching and and through that expressing the growth of the characters. In my desert hide-away the guys in the bar definitely talk like Walt. In private some talk like that but then it sometimes takes on a different meaning, rolling their eyes and saying: oh you're such a feminist, pacifist, liberal... I'll have to stop talking to you. In 'Unforgiven' I loved the scene where the protagonist, bathes and shaves, puts on clean clothes before going on a killing spree to settle old scores. Here Eastwood reenacts a similar clean up scene with confession, close shave, new clothes and all and works out a interesting non-violent path for himself. He never cleans up his language nor outward attitude, but by now he knows something about life and death... He also has learned as a Korean War Vet about the results of conflicts years later... Is the language offensive? Yes. Does it convey the change in attitude in the main characters? Yes. Is it funny? Moving? Yes and Yes. Does it teach about the weight of killing and how not to go about conflict resolution? Sure... I had to think of Lenny Bruce who during a performance used all the racial slurs asking 'Are there any niggers in the here tonight? Spics? Wops, Polaks...' and all the others and then goes on to explain: 'The suppression of the word gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness...'

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