The Mule ★★★½

I don't suscribe to those who say this is "by the numbers" filmmaking or "slow" or bad acted.

I mean, the man at 90 can still kick some people's asses half his age that complain about everything but wouldn't know how to film this without a flashlight and a map.

It's not one of his best, but I was entertained. And the "racist" jokes are on him as well as on us. The "dykes on bikes" is hilarious. People are so offended about anything these days that ovelook Eastwood made a film about how he doesn't get it. And when he does, he doesn't mind. As long as his "duties" will help him take care of the people he really longs to take care of, including his longtime neglected family. At the bottom, he doesn't even judge his own character for what he does for a living; why he would do that upon others, then? That's utter BS.

It's coherent with his filmography, too. Dirty Harry is still a "loner"; a renegade (Gran Torino, Bridges of Madison County, etc) An old man at odds with its time. An horticulturist for Godssakes! Can you name me some other out of touch profession like this one? A potter, perhaps?

The answer is a craftsman. The ultimate craftsman.

And that's how he builds up his films. A classical filmmaker in every sense of the word who wouldn't have the patience for flourishes not being his beloved lillies. He even cast himself 12 years later without a change of make up. The ellipsis it's not good but he doesn't care as long as he carries the story forward.

Eastwood is aware of his contradictions. He's also eager to accept his venalities at the end without a hint of protest. How many conservatives do that? He may be a racist dick for some but the old man won't hide the fact that many people like him exist. What should he do? Sweep these people under the carpet? Erase that part of America for some "progressive" minds whose only idea of filmmaking it's the one which can adjust its ideals and morals to their own compass? Get out of here!

For an "outsider" moviegoer like me, he defines these contradictions better than I can see with others filmmakers who doesn't "think" like him (or myself). Earl Stone may be a proxy for Clint, the conservative. He's also a flawed character trapped in an "ideal" past of war veterans who likes gathering up for polkas and getting laid beyond "taste".

He's just lost some touch in building up shots rigurously as he used to and commits the sin to be careless with editing here. There is a particular dissolve that I found rather clumsy. Perhaps, he might be at a point (as a director as well as with his own life) where he just goes after the backbone: what family means to him. That's the core of this film.

It's not about being used as a "mule" or judging everyone around. Add or substract a "tasteless" joke. He's the one being judged. He knows it, learns about it and takes the blame.

It's not that we see mea culpas in directors every so often. On the contrary, the current vogue goes toward the obnoxious finger-pointing about morality. I run away from those. He also shies away from unnecesary subplots and characters and has become a skeletal storyteller, to the dissapointment of some. Or so it seems.

Eastwood doesn't pretend to be pretty aymore. He's running out of time for such preciousness. He goes to the heart of the matter, even at the expense of some character's development or past detours in meticulous framing and miss-en-scene. His editing suffer this syndrome the most, but his penchant for building up tension out of seemingly insignificant details remains the same. Pity some people seem more inclined to judge him for his politics rather than his filmmaking or storytelling abilities. There's no insight anymore in offering better arguments.

Me, I understand how deep America works every time he turns a camera on. What "they're" missing for, what "they're" soughting after. He just uses the excuse of a real event to channel his frustrations. But he's no Simpsons' Grandpa. He's pro-active with his "complaints". Not an "old man yelling at the clouds". He's also, again, self-deprecating (although non-judgemental). It's a balance he's still getting right.

It's worth taking a look at. But some are too obssesed about the "tastless" racist jokes or the old man complaining at the Internet. Ok, then. You're missing the point. I want to meet all of you at the age of 90. Perhaps in a hospital bed instead of your comfy couch, finger-pointing. He just keeps working. Not bad at all.