Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story (2013)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story</strong> (2013)

(On Cable TV, January 2019) After a few examples of the genre, I’m getting to realize that authorized documentaries about famous directors are never going to give viewers a solid critical overview of the director’s work. Altman, de Palma, Spielberg and here Eastwood Directs… It costs too much and requires too much work to set up interviews with the directors and their colleagues to actually dare offer something other than a celebration of their work. The disconnect between what is shown on-screen and what there is to say about a director’s work (or his life!) will seldom be as notable as with Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story. It doesn’t take much of a look through the most elementary biography of Eastwood’s life to realize that he’s a fascinating man—a conservative with a past as an extreme womanizer (he recently discovered his eighth child that we know of) and allegations of spousal abuse, a peaceful man with a macho persona, a landmark actor who successfully transitioned to a director, a filmmaker so difficult that he has a Director’s Guild rule named after him, and a director reportedly uninterested in anything more than a few takes. This would be rich material for any objective biography, but it doesn’t take a long time to realize that Eastwood Directs is meant to be a hagiography of Eastwood’s work as a director as told by friends and colleagues. There’s not much of an “untold story” here as the film blends old and new interviews (judging from the film stock). It’s strikingly incomplete: OK, we can accept that it’s going to focus on Eastwood’s work as a director and not on the shambles of his personal life. Still, that doesn’t excuse the complete absence of any discussion about the DGA’s “Eastwood Rule” forbidding actors from firing directors and taking over the film. Any documentary purporting to be about Eastwood directing that doesn’t mention that rule is blatantly dishonest. While the film does have some material in terms of facts and anecdotes (including the actors’ perspective on Eastwood’s famous two-takes-is-all-I-need efficiency as refreshing and a mark of trust in them), this really isn’t an objective, complete or even fair assessment of his work. Writer/director Richard Schickel spends so much time talking about some movies that it quickly becomes nothing but a praise fest for them. Eastwood is great, Eastwood is fantastic, says every one of his friends without mentioning Eastwood’s legendary clashes with directors throughout his career. In other words, I am very, very disappointed by this film—it doesn’t take much to realize that Eastwood is hardly worthy of any lionization, but Eastwood Directs makes backflips in order to avoid saying anything of substance about him. That’s not a documentary—that’s a birthday present.

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