Monday, December 14, 2009

It's got horses and cowboy hats and dynamite--it's great!

I am enjoying catching up with the Clint Eastwood movies and the westerns that I should have seen in high school, which I skipped because those things were Not Cool. Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970) finds him offering the same generous team-playing spirit he demonstrated in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, and this time he's a cowboy. Well, not a cowboy. He's the Clint Eastwood Western Guy. Cynical, this time with more humor than in the Leone films, but with dynamite and a sincere desire to get paid.

So many things about early-70s films are hard to judge today because it is hard to tell the difference between style and laziness. Is Shirley MacLaine's eye makeup overdone because we're supposed to guess she's not really a nun, or is it because we're still in the era when make-up is overdone and scenes are overlit? Actually, the scenes are not overlit, because the film is beautifully shot by the legendary Mexican cinematographer, Gabriel Figueroa, who made John Ford's The Fugitive so beautiful, he helped ruin a bad film. (That's a story for another time.)

In a similar betwixt-and-between vein, it is hard to tell if the film is meant to be light piffle, counter-cultural, or a bit of genre bending. Today, it feels like a puff pastry that went a little flat, making it a perfectly good croissant. Bring your own butter or jam and you'll have a good time.

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