Kino’s looks at Clint Eastwood’s move from actor to director with a pair recent releases from the man himself.
I don’t think there’s a figure in Hollywood who has earned as much acclaim and respect for his many decades of work in front of and behind the camera quite like Clint Eastwood. This is probably because there are few who have been able to balance the two sides as effortlessly and consistently as he has. Now into his 90s (and with yet another project on the horizon), the actor/director can firmly be called a legend. His output has been extraordinary, from the Spaghetti westerns which made him a movie idol, to his still- mesmerizing directorial debut, Play Misty for Me (click here for Austin’s review of the film’s home video re-release), to the likes of Dirty Harry, The Bridges of Madison County, Mystic River and Sully, Eastwood’s work ethic and passion has never once dwindled.
Recently, Kino Lorber released a pair of titles, the 1970 Eastwood star vehicle Two Mules for Sister Sara and Eastwood’s Misty follow-up, 1973’s Breezy, both of which show the seamless, yet pivotal shift the actor/director took in shaping his remarkable career.
Two Mules for Sister Sara
There was never a more a textbook example of a Clint Eastwood star vehicle than this film which told the story of a cowboy in the Mexican desert who rescues Shirley MacLaine; a nun wanted by a band of French revolutionaries. Two Mules for Sister Sara is an odd duck of a film. It’s plot goes from bare bones minimalist to somewhat dense and convoluted in its back half. Both stars have great chemistry, but one can understand why the movie isn’t a fondly remembered entry in either one’s filmography. In fact, even the most die hard of Eastwood’s admirers would scramble to make a case as to why the movie is worth remembering today. It isn’t a totally dire affair, however. Two Mules for Sister Sara is actually diverting enough and does fully commit to the world its created. But there’s no disguising that the whole exercise as a furthering of the western movie star image Eastwood had successfully cultivated up to that point. It wouldn’t be until the following year when the future Oscar winner would helm his debut film, which in a way makes Two Mules for Sister Sara the end of an era for many fans.
Following up one of the most impressive actor turned director debuts in film history had to have been a daunting prospect for anyone who has ever attempted such a move, especially when the debut in question was Play Misty for Me. But Eastwood did indeed find his sophomore directing project with this tender drama about a disillusioned middle aged man (William Holden) and the younger, free-spirited hippie (Kay Lenz) who comes into his life. May/December romances are nothing new in film, but Eastwood presents Breezy as a film so totally unique thanks to the self-awareness it gives its characters. Both lovestruck protagonists know from the get go how ill-suited they are for each other and how they look to people in public. Yet they also acknowledge that fate refuses to let them be apart from one another. The obstacles and challenges are there, but so too are is a joining of souls which helps to understand what draws the two together. Even the final scene, which should offer up some kind of winsome romantic phrase, culminates with Holden proclaiming to Lenz: “It’ll never work, you know.” He’s perhaps right. But for that moment in time, Eastwood and his camera firmly believe they’ve at least got a shot.
Following the release of both films, Eastwood would of course go on to become one of the most influential names in front of and behind the camera. His standing as one of the world’s last true movie stars has been proven every time he steps in front of the camera, regardless of whether he’s playing a jaded former baseball legend in Trouble with the Curve or a drug runner in The Mule. Meanwhile, Eastwood’s directing efforts have continued to draw in audiences and even court the occasional bit of controversy as both American Sniper and Richard Jewell have shown. Regardless of which side of the camera Eastwood is on, the master continues to approach the art of moviemaking with the same love and concentration that have truly made him one of the undisputed greats.
Two Mules for Sister Sara and Breezy are both available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Kino Lorber.