***/**** Image B Sound A
directed by Bruce Ricker
by Walter Chaw Directed by Bruce Ricker, Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows is a particularly good biographical account featuring clips from dozens of the titular subject's work, interviews with former Eastwood co-stars as diverse as Meryl Streep and Richard Burton, and a smooth narration read by Morgan Freeman that links the periods of the actor's professional life with grace and alacrity. Of particular interest are the moments in which such admirers as French director Bertrand Tavernier discuss Eastwood's reception overseas. Blissfully lacking scrutiny into the actor's personal life, the picture is more A&E than E!, choosing the road less travelled in tracing the actor's evolution from studio stable hand to one of the most powerful directors in the United States.
Documentaries like this have a tendency towards hero worship, and while it isn't immune, a number of sequences combine to salvage Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows from soundbite sycophancy. Take, for instance, the comparison of a scene in Yojimbo to its A Fistful of Dollars parallel, or the footage of Reagan dundering through a homage to a certain .45-wielding vigilante cop. Former New York Times critic Janet Maslin provides occasional and welcome cultural grounding, and the influence of Don Siegel on Eastwood's career (worthwhile, if obvious) is focused upon to excellent critical effect.
I was very much intrigued by author Walter Mosley's (Devil in a Blue Dress) take on the Dirty Harry character as a polarizing symbol of Nixon-era societal paranoia--I had honestly never considered that the timing and content of this film placed it among the earliest examples of the paranoia films of the 1970s, and am better for the revelation.
Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows is, then, the rare filmmaker documentary that actually illuminates critical approaches to the artist's work. It isn't an intellectual journey, to be sure: too much of it is still given over to idol-love. Yet its dissection of sources (High Noon into Dirty Harry for instance) makes the piece more dissertation than tongue bath. (Esteemed film critic Dave Kehr wrote the linking script.) The film is exceptional and simply indispensable as an introduction to the themes and cultural/artistic importance of Eastwood's career; it does no end of good to this heart of mine besides to see critics (Madame Pauline among them) allowed to express themselves in context and with passion with no fear of censure. Critics with caveat: what a concept.
As could be predicted, Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows is of uneven video quality, dependent upon the condition of the films excerpted. Generally in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the aspect ratio shifts between 2.35:1 and 1.33:1, again depending on the individual source. The picture is clear throughout, though. The Dolby Surround soundtrack is fairly uniform in its clarity, and fidelity--the odd clip pops, but most of the audio is anchored in the centre channel. There are no special features. Originally published: June 21, 2002.