The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Review of: Pale Rider (1985). Produced & Directed by Clint Eastwood

Review of: Pale Rider (1985). Produced & Directed by Clint Eastwood
By Tim Krenz

In the library of great American films, only the immortal John Wayne surpasses Clint Eastwood as the enduring “hero” in the genre of the Western. Eastwood's pop stardom in the 1960's and '70's proved no fluke. With chiseled jaw, granite eyes, and the bone-chilling glare that produced an imposing effect on opponents, Clint Eastwood did indeed have talent at what he did, playing the hero or anti-hero who always won in the end.

Whether playing cop Dirty Harry in more contemporary movie settings, or starring in Sergio Leone's famous “spaghetti Westerns,” (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, for example), Eastwood's acting since the early television series Raw Hide created a standard model in his early characters. Beginning in the 1980's, however, somewhere around the movie Pale Rider in 1985, Clint Eastwood crossed a professional frontier from an actor in Western and cop into a transforming career as perhaps the most accomplished movie director of American film today, and in versatile genres of topics, themes, stories and plots. Multiple Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Film attest.

Eastwood's film Pale Rider maintains a striking thematic unity, and displays a maturity of vision and film-making style. Not in the format of a pasta-cowboy surreal film, such as High Plains Drifter, though one replete with a grand whole forming much more than its parts, Pale Rider by some accounts resurrected and redefined the Western genre. Instead of the old style “cowboys and Indians” racism, the mercenary adventure, or the typical John Wayne “oater” formula film, Eastwood produced and directed the script co-written by Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack and made it into a distinctly significant film on par with as a “one-man” Seven Samurai, even without the directorial flourishes of the great Japanese film-maker Akira Kurosawa.

Also, Pale Rider pays tribute to another great American film, in this case Shane, starring Alan Ladd in the title role. Eastwood's take on that movie tells the story on the screen without Shane's ambiguity of morals or need for redemption. Pale Rider is not so much the anti-hero of Shane, or the epic heroes myths of the Seven Samurai (or, for that matter, The Magnificent Seven starring Yul Brenner). Instead, Pale Rider is realism of existential purity, where justice prevails on the order of a final battle between good and evil, where something supernatural or omnipotent must assist good to find the courage in itself to prevail over wrong.

In short, Pale Rider creates unheroic resolution, a divine intervention where a god or an angel cannot be heroic because that is what “it” does by nature. Only humans with human shortcomings can rise beyond themselves and find that courage and honor, that determination, overcoming that inner fear, to be more than average men and women and enter the realm of hero, epic or not. The “pale rider,” identified in the movie as “the Preacher,” is beyond a human in the way the story is shown. Megan, the young woman in the movie, reads from the Bible just before seeing Eastwood's character, a passage from the Book of Revelation, Chapter 6, Verse 8: “And I looked, and behold a pale horse, and his name that sat upon him was Death, and Hell followed with him.”

The film itself is about a group of prospectors protecting their claim against an industrial gold miner trying force and fraud to get the group of small timers to abandon their lucrative claim, so that the industrialist can exploit Carver Canyon with his 19th century version of hydraulic strip mining, a process which destroys the land beyond recognition or reclamation. The Preacher, played by Eastwood, finds himself as the protector of the flock, giving the prospectors “faith,” as the industrialist laments. The robber baron, who had the prospectors and their families on the point of leaving knows that any faith in Carver Canyon makes his fraudulent attempts to steal their hopes all the more difficult.

The industrialist, a man named La Hood, calls in seven hit men gunslingers in dusters, under the employ of a craggly looking corpse, a walking undead, to dispense with the Preacher, who attempts to protect the interests of the prospectors. When the final battle nears, the Preacher goes to a nearby city to reclaim his bullet- studded gun belts from a bank safety deposit box, leaving his white preacher's collar in the box. As the pale rider, who was shown riddled with old bullet wounds mid-way through the movie, and against the seven angels of the apocalypse, The Preacher sets out to settle all.

Does faith prove great enough to right wrongs, to dispose justice on the remnants of the late lawless frontier? Well, that can be left to view the movie. Pale Rider is a quintessential mix of both New Testament, Hollywood, modern myth, and great, great symbolic movie making. Not only is the ending worth the time to watch the whole movie, the simple interplay of great film-making by Clint Eastwood holds a philosopher's bowl full of wrath and justice unleashed to contemplate.