on November 17, 2012
Here I put in title an error Huston the director..its much better to think of hima s a writer who directs. If you look at some famous critical successes he made around this time in a short span, Key largo, treasure of the Sierra Madre, Asphalt Jungle, and The african Queen..we see a writer who appreciates literature, who loves words and writing and the literary genre but also loves films and likes people and knows how to make them enjoy a movie experience but not make it low brow..he wants to give them an enlightened experience but put the film is simple situations, as his character says in the film quoting Hemmingway. The films mentioned had literary sources, he at times eliminated political ideologies from novels, or as in here African Queen laced the script with great humor which is totally absent from the film, in other words the characters in this film, largely in dialogue and humorous sequences a drama is built. These films were not only artistic successes but as African Queen a big money maker in 1952 and filmmakers like Huston helped Hollywood in the post war years(and even before) with his modernist filmmaking techniques, a great knowledge of transferring literary sources to film and knowing how to change it, and building scenes of interest through storylines simplifying in ways novels. He was moralistic, why's that a bad thing? For a complex writer to talk in a vacuum..that's not what he wants to do so there's not a message sa in a sunday school class..his movies are complex than usual cinematic fare, and he and others really helped to build an industry...with quality writing and filmmaking. Probably the best in hollywood...in quality and success! He was a consummate artist when colour suited...and here in African Queen it does...but in others he prefers black and white as a more intelligent filmmaking process, fits the mood, and the viewers concentration and other matters...the first to publicly complain of the colorizing of his films...when he was on a film, and he attracted the biggest stars, as writer and celebrated guru and international storyteller, which are very biblical in ways after a viewing, but not ponderous, and he always had an interest in the nature of people..and youll get that watching this film...its interesting how time's changed during the 50's his black and white films, artistic stories, Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe in the Misfits and Humphrey Bogart in Beat The Devil, speak of the ordeal of working with John, who people say treated people in reverse, or the reverse that they used to be treated, and he may have been a religious person or ethical or humanitarian..or all three...or whatever...Gable died two weeks after the shooting of the film and it caused some controversey, roping horses and it was a tough film, but John liked actors who did their own stunts, and given his stature...they usually gave in. There's much to John...a revered person the father of Walter..one of the great writers..these early pioneers in film technique really gave birth to the film industry..and there were a few others...but they were skilled and learned their craft from the literary arts...Eastwood is great in this film and I viewed it from the retrospective film series...I skipped over Bird, its a genre of film I'm not used to and dont know that much about it..Is louis Armstrong from this era...anyways a good film, but I dont know that much about it
on January 18, 2002
Clint Eastwood captures the machismo and bravado and the wit of John Huston perfectly and he gets some of the elegance and the grace which he also had in abundance and which made him one of the most interesting of characters. A more complex actor may have given a more layered performance but its pretty hard not to admire what he does with the role. Eastwood is also a legend but of a different type and from a different era and his own legend status may have interfered with the filmgoing publics ability to accept him in this role playing not himself(as we always assumed he was doing)but a different legend. I think it works very well though. You can tell Eastwood is examining his own mythic stature as he examines Hustons.
The last scene of the movie has Eastwood/Huston sitting in his directors chair ready to shoot the first scene of African Queen. The movie documents Hustons conflicting desires to be both a man who lives life fully and to be an artist. The two urges come into conflict when Huston must cater to the studio executives who want to control what he does. His endless battles with studio representatives is great comedy. He enlists the young screenwriter "Pete" as an ally, or attempts to. (Pete is the one who eventually writes the book this movie is based on.) Huston wants Pete to be as fearless as he is and Pete is taken in by the charm of the great director but not all the way in. Pete is his own man, and Huston encourages that but also comes up against it when they disagree. Sometimes Hustons willfullness is heroic as when he acts out of principle. In one of the best scenes of the movie a blonde socialite makes some antisemitic remarks unaware that Pete is Jewish. Huston defends his screenwriter and friend but not immediately, rather using all his charm and guile (which is dropped only at the last minute) he tells the blonde socialite a long story about another blonde socialite and there is no way for this antisemitic blonde socialite not to know just who the story is about... you will never forget the tell off after you have seen it. Other times however the willfullness just seems like simple childishness and irresponsibity and is at least one of the contributing factors in an accidental death. Eastwood/Huston gets beaten up pretty good in one scene(which proves just how far he'll go) and he wears the scars like badges through several scenes. You can't help like him and admire him for going through life in such cavalier fashion but you are also kind of sickened at times that he is so egocentric and callous towards others. So it is an unusual movie with a lead character that you both do and don't like. Its not what people expect from Eastwood. Its deeper, more complex. It is a thinking mans biography- adventure movie. Hustons African escapade begins as an outward journey to conquer and therby prove his greatness as a man by killing an elephant and ends with him coming to his senses... finally. Only by going too far far too many times does he realize how destructive his megolomania really was. Great character study, and great looking film. My favorite Eastwood movie.