Sunday, August 24, 2014

Don't Make a Scene: Unforgiven

The Story: Even as this scene unspools in Clint Eastwood's valedictory western Unforgiven, you know that it is a classic scene--a moment of summing up and reflection on violence and its effects, something that doesn't occur in most westerns, certainly most modern westerns. Certainly most of the westerns that starred Clint Eastwood when he was working with such masters of the form as Sergio Leone and Don Siegel. Both directors were interested in taking their genre films and doing something more. Now their star, after some twenty years of directing films, moved into a new deepening understanding of not only what film could do, but what it was capable of. Unforgiven is dedicated to those directors who had gone before, "to Sergio and Don."

The Setup: Former gunslinger William Munny (Clint Eastwood) takes on a bounty hunter job to save his failing pig farm. But he finds that old habits die hard, but men die just as easy. He and his partner The Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvert) have just taken care of part of the job, and are awaiting payment.

When you're ready....

Open country at sundown seen from a low hill, and you can barely make out a lone RIDER approaching in the extreme distance.
Standing on the rise and watching the rider in the distance.

THE KID: Is that what it was like in the old days, Will?... Everybody ridin' out shootin'... smoke all over the place an' folks yellin' an' bullets whizzin' by?
The Kid is behind Will sitting under a large oak drinking from a whiskey bottle.
MUNNY(absently): I guess so.

THE KID: Shit... I thought they was gonna get us.
The KID: I was even... scared a little... just for a minute.(pause)
The KID: Was you ever scared in them days?
Munny turns from watching the rider's slow approach and walks over to The Kid who can't see the rider from where he's sitting.

MUNNY: I can't remember. I was drunk most of the time.
The rider is a little closer now and the sun is a little lower. It is very beautiful.
THE KID (drinking heavy): I shot that fucker three times. He was takin' a shit. He went for his pistol an' I blazed away... first shot got him in the chest...
The Kid wipes whiskey from his chin. He has been working hard to make the hysteria he feels into a high... but it won't quite come.
THE KID: Say, Will...
MUNNY: Yeah.
Munny is watching the rider and the rider is closer.

THE KID: That was... the first one.

MUNNY: First one what?
THE KID: First one I ever killed.
MUNNY (preoccupied with his vigil): Yeah?

THE KID: You know how I said I shot five men... it weren't true. (long pause) That Mexican... the one that come at me with the knife... I just busted his leg with a shovel... I didn't kill him or nothin,' neither.
Munny is watching the rider and the rider is much closer but coming at a walk and and he's trying to make The Kid feel okay when he says...

MUNNY: Well, you sure killed the hell outta that fella today.
THE KID (forced bravado): H-hell yeah. I killed the hell out of him... three shots... he was takin' a sh-sh-shit an'... an'...
The Kid is shaking, becoming hysterical, he can't go on.
MUNNY: Take a drink, Kid.
THE KID (breaking down, crying): J-Jesus Ch-ch-christ... it don't... it don't seem... real... How he ain't never gonna breathe no more... e-ever. How he's dead. An' the other one too... On account of... of just... pullin' a trigger.
Munny walks back to the edge of the rise and watches the rider and it is a lovely sunset happening and he is talking to no one in particular.

MUNNY: It's a hell of a thing, killin' a man. You take away all he's got... an' all he's ever gonna have...
THE KID (trying to pull himself together): Yeah well, I gu-guess they had it... comin'.
MUNNY: We all have it comin', Kid.

Pictures by Jack N. Green and Clint Eastwood

Unforgiven is available on DVD on Warner Home Video.

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