There's a new unauthorized doc on Judge Gordon Sullivan's putty gaze.
"Make Your Day" with this gripping portrait of a Hollywood Icon
Clint Eastwood is a very rare beast, a guy who's had a five-plus decade career in Hollywood as an actor, made a seamless transition to director, and managed to project nothing but humility and a solid work effort the whole time. If that weren't enough, he went from solid genre work at the start of his career to award-winning drama later, a feat few pull off with such grace. Because of these accomplishments, Clint Eastwood deserves a better biographical documentary than Steel Gaze: An Unauthorized Story on Clint Eastwood. The film feels too short and cheap to really get at the monumental career of the famous actor/director.
Steel Gaze is truly unauthorized, which really means the filmmakers didn't gather any primary material themselves to give us insights into Eastwood and his life/career. Instead, Steel Gaze consists of footage from red carpet interviews, press conferences, and some Eastwood films. This is all tied together with some voiceover that provides some historical background. The film follows a roughly chronological trajectory, starting with Eastwood's Western roots and moving forward through his iconic roles.
Despite its fascinating subject, Steel Gaze just doesn't work as a documentary. The biggest problem is the film's use of such disparate sources. Eastwood is a pretty humble guy, but he's obviously not afraid of talking about his work. However, since the filmmakers can't put questions to him, they have to find comments he's made (most of them in the last ten years) and stitch them into the flow created by the voiceover narration. This patchwork construction feels cheap, partly because the answers don't always completely suit the filmmakers' points but also because most of the footage was captured for journalists, which means the angles are not always chosen to be visually appealing. Combine that with a voiceover that sounds unrehearsed, and it all adds up to a production that feels quick and dirty.
Also, because the documentary is comprised of already existing footage, it's much harder to construct a narrative. So, while the film is roughly chronological, it also jumps around quite a bit. In the middle of talking about Eastwood's run as Dirty Harry, the film will cut to another actor on the red carpet saying how great Eastwood is. It's really quite jarring sometimes, making the slapdash narrative even more difficult to follow.
The DVD itself is about what you'd expect from this type of film. The video quality varies pretty wildly depending on the source of the interview material, though most of it is free from compression and authoring problems. The simple stereo sound keeps the voiceover and interview material audible, though subtitles would have been a nice inclusion. Bonus material consists of four extra segments, running a few minutes each. They primarily cover Eastwood's most recent films like Letters from Iwo Jima and Invictus. They're really more of the same interview-style material from the main feature, but they were probably pulled to the reduce the main feature's running time to an hour's worth of TV time.
To be fair, Steel Gaze contains some interview footage with Eastwood (and others) that we're unlikely to see anywhere else. Because most of it looks like it was shot for daily journalism, most of this footage has probably languished in a studio archive somewhere. Now, fans of Eastwood get to see some of that material, and I guess that's a good thing overall (even if the voiceover gets annoying at times). I'm sure it can't have been easy to do an unauthorized biography of a filmmaker as popular as Eastwood, so the film gets some credit for trying.
Casual fans of Eastwood probably aren't going to learn anything shocking about the leading man, but diehards might enjoy some of the rarer footage on display in Steel Gaze. However, whether you're a big fan or a little one, this flick is worth at most a rental.
Steel Gaze is found not guilty, but only because the court respects Mr. Eastwood.
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