White Hunter, Black Heart

Looked at White Hunter, Black Heart, and I can see where it might be a great novel, a vivid and even harrowing portrait of a great and complex character with a gift for self-destruction, but that wasn't the movie I saw. Kudos to Eastwood for stretching, and this is about as far a stretch as I can see him doing, trying to impersonate the loquacious, ever-witty Huston...but when he falls on his face, he falls hard. Some of his lines are funny, even brilliant, but when he says them I kept hearing Huston's voice in the background, and my response to them as a result keeps souring.

I keep thinking of O'Toole's performance in The Stunt Man, which probably isn't any closer to David Lean (who was supposedly the inspiration) than Eastwood's is to Huston, but which is alive, and funny, and profane. Shit, when Eastwood's Huston comes up with a shocking remark or insult, it comes off as yet another Dirty Harry zinger, meant to be the ironic prelude to his blowing the other guy away. Except here the other guy isn't blown away, and Eastwood is left with egg in his face.

A minor Kate Hepburn performance here by Marisa Berenson which I did like (even if it isn't as close to Hepburn as Blanchett's), partly because Hepburn is not the focus of the film the way Huston is, and partly because Berenson's performance is so relaxed and cheerful where Eastwood is sweating bullets to try appear to be relaxed and cheerful. I've never seen a more strained performance in my life.   

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