Gran Torino(Clint Eastwood, 2008)

Gran torino

Old cowboys don’t die. They go in a  magnesium flame of creativity. This film is  illustration to Americans of what Francois Truffuat meant when he said of the Robert Bresson film The Diary of a Country Priest ” every shot is as true as a handful of earth” . Clint Eastwood is a master Auteur now, and has taken personal expression in cinema to a new high with Gran Torino.

The first fifteen minutes of the film left me wide eyed and with a lump in my throat. And it went  from there. Every shot was tone perfect. Clint’s face told us history . I cried for every gruff flag waving veteran neighbor who took the time to talk to me in small town America. I cried for me for being so lucky. I cried happy tears in between for every nod the film made to genre conventions – the grasshoppa is a toad. The gook is the student. The Gang is  unwarnished evil. The cute oriental chick plays out her trope with the old soldier (Oh clint, I wish you had got the girl!).

The casting was pitch perfect. The audience twittered around me at the silliness of the politically incorrect Old man and then cried as events were sprung on them, blindsided as they were, nervously watching the senescent Walt Kowolski (aptly chosen name) spout about the gooks living next door.

This I said to myself repeatedly, is America. This is what being American is. More importantly, I said, This is what a Hollywood movie is as my tears washed away all pretense of my reverse snobbery about the tradition of American film. This is Hollywood I said, as a “Oscar montage” of the greatest Hollywood films, the greatest Clint Eastwood films…flashed before my eyes.

I was gripped. I didn’t want to know what would happen before a scene unfolded, my eyes were in thrall of the pictures on the screen. I was listening with all my senses. And clint was talking.

If there’s a such genre as the aging dude flick, clint created and now owns it. It started as he aged in the seventies., with the Dirty Harry films. And then he directed one film after another that gave voice to the regrets and strengths of old age. He wasn’t trying to be a cool old man he just made films that reflected the passion of clint. Million Dollar Baby,Mystic river Unforgiven, Bridges of Madison county

With each film he grew. Gran Torino is a better film than Million dollar Baby. Which is a better film than mysic river.

Walt Kowolski owns a Ford Grand torino(whose steering Assembly he put in in the job he used to work in at Ford in Detroit). He hurls invective at the slanty eyed neighbors(the hmong, he is informed by the English speaking, American Born brother and sister from next door) and there is some talk, during his wife’s funeral of his winning a medal in Korea. And then the neighbors reach out to him, with affection, as he stands up for them against the local Hmong gang trying to enlist tao (toad, to Walt) . Kowolski takes toad under his wing (in a flip of the Martial arts genre, where the weak white kid is trained to be a fighter by the old Chinese guy) and teaches him to speak like a man in a barbershop  Then shit happens.

And then I cried for slumdog millionaire, for being out in the year this film was filmed.slumdog may win many oscars, but it has lost me to this film,through its own inattentiveness to detail.(read my music review of it below).

If bollywood is the cinema of cheerful optimism, this is bollywood. If bollywood is the cinema of manipulative melodrama, this is manipulative melodrama. And this is America’s Bollywood the writers( Nick Schneck, Dave Johanssen script, Nick Schneck screenplay) seemed to tell me. And I agreed, because this was a story of today’s America. This was about today’s bombed out Industrial Midwest America, and more importantly, this was about  value,  in old age, as everything starts wearing away like bones with osteoperosis . The film  taught this to  me from   the story of an old soldier that went and killed and was awarded medals for a cause he didn’t fully understand(knew was wrong) . And it told me not to forget my people…my people who care for me even if they think they don’t , because we share this destiny.

Funny word, huh? Destiny…


About rameshram

Name : Ramesh Ram... Email Address : (don't even ask) Blog: (never updated) Height/ Weight: 6'1 175 (varies between 160 and 185) Color of hair/ eyes black/ brown Bald? Nope (not yet, but give me 20 years.) Interests: Film (Bollywood/international indie), Travel (Germany/Japan/Central America/Sout/east/west Asia/ Northern Africa), Gizmo geek, Clubbing... What do I like in a good movie?: Women, Music, Auters, Special effects, Style. What do I like in a bad movie?: Women, Music, Auters, Special effects, Style. Favorite Critic: International: Bazin Domestic: J Hobermann Indian : me. (noone else comes close ...India or here..) Best quality: Humility. Outspokenness. Warmth Worst quality: Intolerence Favorite color : Yellow Black Blue Favorite Perfume : men: Grey Flannel(Geoffery Beene) Women: Celine dion: Obsession Boxers / briefs : Boxers Did I inhale: And how! Author: Marquiz, Rushdie, Murakami, Jong Last Book: The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton, Catherine A. Liszt Music : Patricia Kass, Alejandro Sanz,Nina Simone, Amir Diab Sports person: What am I usually in : White briefs and tees. Chianti or Burgandy: Chianti Food: French Japanese(street/fast food). Saw and liked: No Country for old men, Lust Caution Saw and disliked: Nishabd Didnt see: Aaja Nach le. Call me: Write me first.
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8 Responses to Gran Torino(Clint Eastwood, 2008)

  1. David C says:

    Wow. Guess I better see it.

    For now, explain please the difference between a “cinema or reassurance” and a “cinema of cheerful optimism.”

  2. rameshram says:

    The difference between cheerful optimism and reassurance.

    that was an if then statement.

    see it david. don’t make the sivaji mistake again.

  3. David C says:

    The opposition I fail to grasp is the one you’re setting up between a “cinema OF reassurance” (a concept you’ve dissed) and a “cinema of cheerful optimism.”

  4. rameshram says:

    A cinema of reassurance sounds wrong(which is how I choose my words) .. like soup to the starving.. or a delusion to paper over stark realities.

    I am not claiming that bollywood is the cinema of cheerful optimism, but that seems to be the straw man generalization prevalent in the US..about bollywood.(almost as if people WANT it to be that..)

    To give you an example, When freida Pinto was asked about her experience of meeting many stars in hollywood , she said “My first film has already won four golden globes” That is cheerful optimism, because of a gung ho, can do spirit she showed matter of factly.This is the first (in many). there will be other occasions when I’ll walk the red carpet, Im happy about what Ive got done with my FIRST film… That’s cheerful optimism(she had no agent then even though she’s reportedly signed one now, she was a relative unknown , and a massive risk for people producing hollywood films). It is certainly not reassurance.

    now Frida pinto(it can be argued, (and is, by me) not really from bollywood, but to hear the ticket buying public talk, This is what they seem to WANT from their bollywood experience. My if then argument in the review was based on this perception. you’ll also notice I don’t think bollywood in manipulative melodrama either.

    It had nothing to do with the fact that I thought you were off the mark when you called bollywood the cinema of reassurance, which will need a different blog post to discuss..

  5. GoJoe says:

    Clint’s control over the tone of this picture is on point. The trailer, IMHO, does not do justice to the balance between comedy and drama. Within thirty seconds of the actual movie I was sold. The submerged growl from Clint as he catches sight of his granddaughter’s belly ring, classic. I liked it a lot. Cool read, Ram.

  6. rameshram says:

    thanks joey!

    wasnt it awesome how they kept referring to conventions from every possible seventies and eighties genres from taxidriver to rambo to kung fu films?

  7. milieu says:

    it was a great movie indeed! After watching it, i too began to feel that it should get the oscar. but i guess america is going thru the throngs of opening up to the world outside and slumdog might win but gran torino is the better picture for me.
    i liked the way clint confessed his crimes at the end to toad through another metal screen. lots and lots of symbolisms in the movie but they worked well.

  8. rameshram says:


    Thanks for pointing that out! There are so many layers to the script that I think I will see it again sometime(probably on DVD.

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