Monday, November 14, 2011


Director Clint Eastwood's turn at
contemporary history is a superb film and by most
standards a fair and accurate portrayal of the FBI's late director J. Edgar Hoover, one of America's controversial
public figures. Eastwood handles the history with class and avoids the kind of distortion and overblown perspective
we have come to expect of other film history bio pics.
None of that from Clint Eastwood who has shown
time and time again he is one of the most skilled
directors in film history. 
People familiar with the Hoover story, or the Hoover and FBI histories will commend Eastwood for his even handedness, authenticity and class.
There are many who have paid close attention to the Hoover chapter of Bureau history and the story is fully told in many books and histories. Eastwood does not
reveal anything not already in public attention, but he
plumbs the personality, emotion, psychology and story line of Hoover and the early FBI in ways that brings the material
to a vivid accounting. 
Dustin Lance Black's screenplay is as good as it can get.
He had a huge story and well documented life to whittle and render and he delivered a compelling script for Eastwood.
Black deserves special recognition, especially from historians.
Hoover was complex and so is the story and it is superbly
told with attention to detail, historical elements,
and the pathos of the time and personality.
Birthing a federal investigative agency was not a simple task, trying to protect a democratic republic from threat while preserving liberties is a constant battle, so is the power and money game in Washington and the 
Hoover story as told by Eastwood beautifully displays
those pushes and shoves.  Hoover's insistence on 
professionalism and his own ego feeding are well told.
Hoover's relationship with his mother may be where
Eastwood begins to wander into interpretation, though
it is plausible by some accounts already told.
The same is true of the persistent rumors of Hoover's
relationship with his long time assistant and frequent companion Clyde Tolson. 
I've covered the FBI, have friends who are former agents, some from the Hoover era and some from the modern bureau, I have read and listened to many theories
about that relationship.  In that context I think
Eastwood's handling of that part of the story is
pure genius.  I came away thinking that in many ways
Tolson was a kind of "rudder" of Hoover and for
the greater good of the FBI.  I don't want to say
more, because your own viewing and evaluation on this part of the story-line is important.
As a period piece it is also brilliant.  
DiCaprio should get an Academy nomination for his 
work.  Inspired and simply brilliant.
Judy Dench as Hoover's mother is one of those
haunting performances that you will long remember.
Naomi Watts as Helen Gandy and Armie Hammer as 
Clyde Tolson are superb. Equally brilliant are 
Sian Grigg who did DiCaprio's make up and prosthetic effects and Alessandro Bertolazzi who did the same for
the aging Naomi Watts.  You can not appreciate how
brilliant their work, until you see it.
Tom Stern's cinematography should also win awards.
I marvel at how each Eastwood film gets better at 
mastering the art.  This film will be on 
all time best lists.  There is so much, so good about
this film, and most of it just stays out of the way and/or empowers the story that some may not fully appreciate just how exquisite is the work. 
 This is an extraordinarily intelligent and subtle film.
It tells part of the modern American story and will
no doubt reside as popular memory.  By contrast
I think of some of the work Oliver Stone
 has inflicted upon us.

JFK by Stone may have been the most egregious bastardizing of history, but Stone has substituted fantasy or conspiracy as fact in other efforts.  He has also done
George W. Bush, Larry Flynt, Nixon and the McMartin child molestation trials in LA among others.
Eastwood on the other hand, brilliantly interprets reality.

If more American History could be so told!
And by the way Clint Eastwood even wrote the music.
Maestro indeed!
See you down the trail.

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