Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Play Misty for Me

I was a '70's kid, so I grew up on Clint Eastwood. My generation grew up on Clint Eastwood. I remember my mother taking us to see "Firefox" at our grubby, but most awesome, Spryfield Cinemas ...& despite Mom's obvious crush, Dad loved Clint too - back then every guy would've liked to be Clint for five minutes...

"A Sensitive Director" - apparently this is the most popular current thought on Mr.Eastwood ...awesome. That at 80, he is one of the most respected filmmakers in the world is well ...a proper thing. He's been doing it, and doing it well for almost 40 years. From MISTY thru 70's and 80's tough guys to Unforgiven - the end of his men without names, to the swan song for his violent characters provided in Gran Torino(I'm sad we won't see him act again, but not really - it was a perfect ending, and that song ...amazing - one classy exit). No other actor/director has achieved anything even close to this kind of career.

But, way way back ...Clint decided that "directing" a movie might be fun. He told his agent, and his agent told Warner Brothers - they said "Cool, sounds great, but we're not paying you." The rest is history.
The script for "Misty" by Jo Heims is fantastic - tight, and smart, and timely. Fatal Attraction borrows heavily, as do probably many I haven't seen. The story is of a Cali coast DJ who sleeps with one of his loyal listeners, beginning an odyssey of obsession and terror. We get to know Dave Garver and his world, as Evelyn Draper invades it. This nuanced descent into madness, by Jessica Walters, is brilliant, as is the pace and direction leading her there. She will always be my favorite version of "the stalker", but I looove JW(Arrested Development, c'mon..)and I could watch her do anything ...from the bushes, or across the street in a phonebooth...
Anyway, there are 3 excellent characters here - Dave, Evelyn, and a very young Donna Mills as Dave's on-again-off-again girlfriend. She turns in a performance every bit as subtle and honest as Jessica Walters is sexy and psycho. The love-scene is deftly handled - not the obvious work of a gun-toting tough guy. And then ther's that "wave scene" as the duo walk and talk:
"The success of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" essentially launched Flack's career as a popular singer, and the single became one of her signature songs. Flack's slower, more sensual version was used by Clint Eastwood in his 1971 directorial debut Play Misty for Me during a lovemaking scene. With the new exposure, Atlantic Records cut the song down to four minutes and released it to radio. It became an extremely successful single in the United States, hitting number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the spring of 1972 and remaining there for six weeks; the song also spent six weeks at the top of Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks [2]." Wikipedia.
Exceptional Scene - To shoot them together, with that wall of water behind them, and that song - the enormity and power of nature used to illustrate "love" as just as powerful a force ...again, the instincts of a natural director. Amazing.

So many nice character touches in this story - from Don Siegel's presence as a bartender/advisor(little Director's help for Clint, too..) to John Larch's classic smart cop, and James McEachin's pot-smokin' DJ friend, it feels like a slice of life at the time, where any adventure Dave might've had would be watchable. Enter Jessica Walters - with as much screen charisma as Clint himself, and as I watch it again I realize my "crush" on JW now eclipses even Joan Allen and the legendary Helen Mirren. I am in love with Jessica Walters... & Arrested Development only cements it. She is awesome. From coy groupee to absolute psycho, and everything inbetween only problem is that her character reminds me of more than one ex-girlfriend ...such is life.
A nice piece of the character day-to-day, and a nice slice of the era, is the montage shot at the Monterey Jazz Festival. It's long and freestyle, like the music - a very nice touch all around, and clearly a personal touch by Clint. He's indulged his jazz passion more and more over the years, and I can't help but think this inspired closing his last performance with a personal tune. Super cool.


Charles R. Rutledge said...

Great post. Thanks for all the extra information about Clint's directing career. I've been very impressed with his abilities as a director over the years. Unforgiven remains one of my favorite films of all time. In fact I need to watch that again soon.

arthurmacarthur said...

That moment, Charles, when he(William Munny) drinks again ...brilliant filmmaking. I've learned plenty from Clint...