Always good, sometimes bad, never ugly

Jan 13, 2019, 05:00 IST | Rahul da Cunha

Often, it isn't the greatest film ever, but it speaks to you at a point in your life. About the things you are thinking about at that point

Always good, sometimes bad, never ugly
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Rahul da CunhaAnd so, once in a way, long after a particular movie is over, as the end credits roll, and the cleaners are itching to clear out the popcorn remnants on the blue carpet, you stay in your seat, unable to move. You don't wish to be distracted yet, by any reality outside, only the world that's consumed you for the last 120-odd minutes. Often, it isn't the greatest film ever, but it speaks to you at a point in your life. About the things you are thinking about at that point.

And so it was with The Mule, Clint Eastwood's latest. This isn't a film review, and I'm definitely not going to be one of the following four kinds of film critics:
1. "But Rahul, if you look at his political agenda, he's an Obama basher and a Trump supporter. I can't appreciate his films."
2. "No, no, he has handled Christian guilt far better in Invictus."
3. "See, I'm not much into Hollywood. My thing is MAMI, ya, see Roma and the Iranian masterpiece, The Fish that Swallowed the Plastic. Now that's real cinema."
4. "The Mule. No man, sh*t ending, sh*t film, too slow. If you have two hours to kill, see Simmba instead, total dhamaal."
Eastwood as Earl Stone, plays a 90-year-old divorcee horticulturist, who transports drugs for the Mexican cartel. Obviously, no one suspects him. He is curmudgeonly, a quixotic character, a true anti-hero.

So, while the film is set against the wider expanse of a crumbling America, we have the ordinary man stuck in extraordinary circumstances, as he finds a way to evade the total feeling of worthlessness that accompanies old age.

And then, of course, watching the man at work: bent out of shape, truly old, but still making and acting in his 40th film as director, with a sense of humour. And so the questions: does creativity wane as you get older? How do you stay relevant? Unjaded? How do you stay motivated to tell stories, so skilfully, well into your eighties?
In his own words: "Everybody wonders why I continue working at this stage. I keep working because there's always new stories. And as long as people want me to tell them, I'll be there doing them."

For me, this man's career truly began post 70, as both actor and director. For years, there was that glower, that grimace, that grunt, "Make my day… punk." The tough cop, the quintessential cowboy, one who demanded total quiet on his sets because it would frighten the horses.

And then in 2003 came Mystic River: no cops, no cowboys, but deep themes. In this case, the power that a person's past can have over his life. This was followed by Million Dollar Baby, Flags of our Fathers, Gran Torino and Sully, to name a few.

Eastwood is the master of unhurried film-making, even the thrillers have a pace that's never rapid, but never slow. Perfectly paced.Finally, this is a complex movie, simply told. By a deeply complex man, with a twinkle in his eye.

Rahul daCunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62@gmail.com

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