This post was edited by Col at 2012-9-16 02:21|
Unforgiven (1992). I think this piece written by Gladstone of Cracked sums up the reasons nicely:
There's been no shortage of talk about Clint Eastwood's 1992 Oscar-winning Western, Unforgiven, and that's as it should be. It's actually not an exaggeration to say that the film deconstructs and rebuilds the entire genre. For those of you who haven't seen it, kill yourself. Are you dead now? Good. You had that coming. Now go watch Unforgiven and you'll see it's the story of a once-notorious gun-slinging criminal who comes out of retirement to collect the bounty on two men who were responsible for cruelly disfiguring a prostitute.
Most of the movie is designed to debunk the notion of the badass superman cowboy, but ultimately, it's just a long con. In the final scene we learn, despite everything we've just been taught, that outlaw heroes are real.
Early on, Richard Harris' character, English Bob, falsely claims to be such a man. He even travels with his own biographer. But Bob is reduced to nothing by Sheriff "Little Bill," played by Gene Hackman. Little Bill is a no-frills authority figure: smart and tough, but also not a hero. He seems to relish his authority too much. He delights in Bob's beating in a way that only a true bully could, and he exists in a town where guns are banned. He seems to perpetually have the upper hand. More than anyone, Little Bill wants people to know that cowboy legends aren't real.
Then there's Eastwood's character, Will Munny -- reformed alcoholic, widower and struggling farmer trying to raise his kids. We hear he was a notorious outlaw, but there's no trace of it in his demeanor. He travels the movie fairly unimpressively, showing no particular talent for killing until his friend Ned is murdered and displayed outside the saloon/brothel where the prostitute was brutalized. Munny enters the hostile room of Little Bill and approximately 20 others with his gun drawn and ... wins. He does everything the movie spent two hours explaining couldn't be done. He kills five men, clears the room and remains unscathed.
"So where's the love story, Gladstone?" you ask, and for a moment I'm confused, because I assume you're my wife. But anyone watching the movie has to notice that despite it being all about Munny and cowboys and killing, it starts and ends with narration about Munny's now deceased wife:
She was a comely young woman and not without prospects. Therefore it was heartbreaking to her mother that she would enter into marriage with William Munny, a known thief and murderer, a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition.
And at the close of the movie:
Some years later, Mrs. Ansonia Feathers made the arduous journey to Hodgeman County, Kansas, to visit the last resting place of her only daughter. William Munny had long since disappeared with the children ... some said to San Francisco where it was rumored he prospered in dry goods. And there was nothing on the marker to explain to Mrs. Feathers why her only daughter had married a known thief and murderer, a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition.
That's the whole love story right there. Nothing more, but it takes Unforgiven from a good movie to a great movie for me. Even in the midst of 21st century instant gratification, those seemingly irrelevant and ambiguous details make us wonder. What did she see in him? And the answer isn't as important as the fact that she did see something. Something made her fall in love, and it was a love so strong that despite other prospects, she had to be with this man and his dark past. And for that, her love was rewarded.
He put down his gun, he gave up the drink and he thought only of providing for their children when she passed.
We also know th
at Munny must have loved her, too. After all, giving up all his evil ways was no big deal when we thought he was just some thug with a gun. By the end of the movie, however, we see that he is the stranger from A Fistful of Dollars. He is the outlaw Josie Wales. He is the living embodiment of every natural born killer cowboy myth we've ever heard, and he put it all away for love.
One of the greatest love stories ever, with not one scene of the couple together, and barely any words explaining their love.