Reed’s Third Favorite Film

17 May



Eastwood helped to redefine the Western for American audiences and he cited Unforgiven as summing up everything he felt about the genre. The film is about big ideas in a very small world. Amidst simple confrontations of violence and revenge are examinations of identity, politics, violence, and (most notably) the deconstruction of legends and myths. When I first saw this movie, I didn’t care very much for it because it consistently gave me what I didn’t expect. However, as multiple discussions and repeated viewings occurred, I became enthralled by what the film had to say about what happens when we play games with the darker shades of our humanity. Characters move arrogantly through the story until finally one of them (like a flesh and blood angel of death) literally cleans house in one of the most compelling climactic shootouts in film history. In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the point is made that “When legend becomes fact, print the legend.” In Unforgiven, you could almost imagine someone saying, “When legends become fact, you’d better arm yourself.” It’s a staggering character study about the nature and power of modern myths (particularly the myths of the old west) and the more I see it, the more compelling I find it to be.

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