Saturday, November 3, 2007

Honkytonk Man

Honkytonk Man; Drama, USA, 1982; D: Clint Eastwood, S: Clint Eastwood, Kyle Eastwood, Alexa Kenin, John McIntire, Matt Clark, Verna Bloom

16-year old Whit lives with his parents on a desolated farm somewhere in Oklahoma during the Great Depression of the 30s. He is surprised when his drunk uncle, country musician Red, crashes with his car into their farm and asks him and his grandpa to accompany him to audition for the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, where he hopes he will make a great career. Whit's mother unwillingly agrees, but the trio makes a detour first to Red's old friend who owes him 100 $. The trip continues, and Whit secretly smuggles the young Marlene in the car because she begged him to escape from the violent man. When he car breaks, Red ditches grandpa and Marlene and continues the journey with Whit alone. He records his songs for a music producer, but dies of tuberculosis.

Unknown film from Clint Eastwood's rich directorial opus, "Honkytonk Man" is today a rightfully forgotten junction between a road movie, country music and tragicomedy, suffering from Eastwood's typical cliches like his narcissistic touch, portrayal of always the same role of a cranky tough guy who in the end proves to be lovable, the standard formula of redemption near the tragic ending and clumsy structure of the story, yet it has sufficient virtues to charm the audience with it's gentle, nostalgic view at the ordinary people during the Great Depression. Kyle Eastwood, director's son, plays Whit, the 16-year old nephew of the main anti-hero Red, and some of the humorous moments with him involved prove to be the highlights in the downplayed story, like when he is about to accompany Red to Nashville and his mother warns him to not enter the shabby pubs his uncle will play in because he can "hear him play outside well anyway" or when the two of them are stealing chickens at night by interposing a guitar under the sleeping birds, but the episodic story at moments seems precisely like that - just like an episodic story with a chaotic connection between the goofy events, especially in the silly moment where Red stops at a brothel and pays a prostitute to take Whit's virginity or when he takes a bath in a water reservoir and then all of the blue a bull attacks him. Characters like grandpa and the young Marlene come and go without a clear cause-consequence thread, reducing the film's quality, but the gentle, honest and straight-forward approach of the author manage to pull it of.


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