White Hunter, Black Heart Review

An immediate opposition between hunter and heart is propelled towards the audience with this title. White Hunter, Black Heart is a thinly veiled crack at a grim situation and the bleaker beings at the heart of it all. But the bleakness and the horrors within are not, necessarily, exclusive to the story at hand. Clint Eastwood is the hard man of Hollywood. He was a slick hand of the spaghetti westerns and the grizzled hero of the screen in his later years. What a surprise it is to see him so emotive and raw within White Hunter, Black Heart, a rare little oddity that showcases the hardman persona ebbed away into real, provocative thought.  

He is a “violent man given to violent actions,” the narration says. Whether they are describing John Wilson or what Eastwood embodies as an actor is anyone’s guess. The key to this application though is that it does work for both. It is clearly meant to as Eastwood staggers around the scenes with much gusto and vigour. He is the hard-headed sudden son of a gun who will butt heads with just about anyone to get his own way. Eastwood explores this well. Right on the precipice of age is that understanding of a previous life, and White Hunter, Black Heart is a simple case of right place, right time. Embodying the age that would soon associate his themes and wider, twilight workings with the distant past and Sergio Leone-led influences, Eastwood is on form here and presents the two welding together. 

There are sacrifices made, naturally. Some scenes within White Hunter, Black Heart feel indifferent. This is surely not a reflection of Eastwood and who he soon turned into. His regal surroundings are confusing but thoroughly charming and of exceptional design and interest. We should never perceive Eastwood as a man of noble qualities. Jeff Fahey and Charlotte Cornwell are more comfortable bedfellows of this antiquated background, but that is the inherent beauty of this feature. Eastwood wishes to dispel the hardman attitude, the rebellious outlaw firing on all cylinders with just means at the end of the road. No such feeling can be found within White Hunter, Black Heart, and it is the formation of the latter blackness and deceit that feels so valuable and important to this feature. 

Well-performed and an inherently unique turn for Eastwood, a styling and role he would rarely touch upon again. A shame, especially considering how well he performs when putting himself up against his own typecasting. He would duck for the cover of the western soon after this with Unforgiven. Perhaps White Hunter, Black Heart left him too exposed. He dared to do something different and left himself vulnerable. We are lucky to be aware of such an occasion, but it is forgivable to see why he would wish to shy away from detailing his innermost feelings and emotions so clearly and concisely on the camera. After all, he is a legend of the west, he does not embody the madness of ego too comfortably. That much shows within brief flutters of this feature, but White Hunter, Black Heart is an oddly emotive feature that gets to grips with not just what Eastwood perceives himself as, but what he fears he would soon become.   

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