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I once mentioned that I would probably start to appreciate Clint Eastwood more as an actor and director after reviewing these new DVDs from Warner Bros ... but I was just joking about it at the time!  Now that I've watched the first four of his Dirty Harry films and this documentary on the life of Hollywood's most unique quirks of the business, I have begun to understand this man in a way I never thought possible.

You will see the many things that Clint Eastwood decided (not) to do to keep true to himself and pursue what he felt was important to him, not always what was important to Hollywood.  This DVD covers the many facets of his life experiences from birth to around 1999 (the last film mentioned is True Crime so none of his work on Space Cowboys is mentioned).

Entitled Clint Eastwood: Out Of The Shadows and narrated by his Unforgiven co-star Morgan Freeman, this comprehensive 90 minute foray covers a surprising amount of Clint's work in films ... including the many 50s/60s B-grade sci-fi flicks that surely gave him early exposure to his future fans :-).  There is a surprising amount of archival footage that is cleverly put together by complementing it with the various discussions of his personal motivations as well as the environment of the movie business itself ... rather than trying to chronologically list off the films he worked in just for the sake of the footage in question.

Clint Eastwood with long-time collaborator Don Siegel
This is a calm and moving tribute (much like his acting really) to a man who didn't follow the typical Hollywood career curve and yet came out on top against all the odds.  He quickly learned the value of reinvention and to always go with your gut.  Of course this doesn't mean that every film he's made has equated to box-office success (some were financial flops).  However his aim wasn't to achieve world-wide fame and success just from creating constant blockbusters all the time (unlike a certain Austrian we all know :-).  Clint Eastwood's success came as a by-product from both his commercial and personal projects, and for a while he became the top-grossing cinema drawcard five years running (this was just a bonus though).  He has survived where many others (who probably tried too hard) have failed.

By the way, did you know that Clint Eastwood is also an accomplished musician, piano and jazz beings his favourite forms?  Didn't think so ...

You can imagine that 90 minutes is hardly enough time to tell the entire story of the "prince of frowns".  And since this is an officially sanctioned documentary it does entitle him to pick and choose what you see and what you hear about ... though this isn't a bad thing at all.  The aim of this retrospective insight is to inform its viewers about what has driven him from his grass roots to where he is today, which he does very admirably indeed.

He discusses some of the turning points in his life (from the tidbits of advice that his peers have offered him along the way) and the decisions he made which were almost always from gut instinct.  His motivation wasn't so much to become the biggest and most bankable star in the world (can anyone say "Arhnold"?) but to also fulfil the need to undertake many personal projects which sometimes were only ever for his own benefit.  So when you look at some of the films that Clint Eastwood has worked on you can only wonder what on earth he must have been thinking - but it's these same films that earmarked a new respect for his abilities as both an actor and a director.

There are many surprises in store for those who know little of his massive career work.  Of course this DVD doesn't cover every tiny morsel of his work in films, but the main drive of this documentary is purely to present what was important to him at the time of his involvement as well as how it affected him and the people who worked around him.

Clint Eastwood in the comfy chair
Since this was entirely mastered on 16:9 enhanced widescreen NTSC video, the quality for this PAL transfer is perfectly serviceable.  The image clarity varies depending on what source you are watching from at the time.  They include ...

- the various black & white and colour movies that Clint Eastwood has worked in
- a great selection of behind-the-scenes footage from the 50s to present day
- a wide variety of TV footage, the majority being 4:3 images unmatted within this 16:9 widescreen presentation (good decision)
- the newly recorded interview segments with past and present associates in the now standard High Definition 16:9 image, which is quite soft at times (no doubt to create a "reflective mood").

The problem with any NTSC to PAL transfers is the slight 'ghosting' or 'repeat' effect of two alternate fields into one frame.  While this isn't a problem for stationary or slow moving camera shots it does become questionable if the camera or the action moves too fast, but this is an unavoidable trait of such transfers.

You can always use this knowledge to see whether you're watching a Film->PAL frame-for-frame transfer or one that has been converted from NTSC video.  (The issue regarding Film->NTSC transfers is a similar but different scenario, but it still applies to this DVD since half the documentary is a Film->NTSC->PAL transfer - with me so far?

Again, being a made-for-TV special the audio is perfectly adequate in its native Pro-Logic 2.0 soundtrack.  The dialogue is obviously easy to understand and any movie clips with loud sections have thankfully been toned down so that it doesn't ruin the flow of the relatively sombre sounding documentary.

The main menu screen music and the documentary itself is backscored by a form of jazz that easily complements the mood of the man's personality and his unhurried approach to film-making.  The reason for this is eventually explained from footage of a jazz tribute concert made in Clint Eastwood's honour shown at the end of the presentation - at the time he was being congratulated by his musical peers for the consistent use of jazz in his many films.  You learn something everyday, don't you?

Clint Eastwood directing Unforgiven
Nothing - no trailers, no making-of, no commentary, not even a documentary ... oh, right.  Well, the one saving grace is that it contains no less than 13 different subtitles (and a Scene Selection link).

This may not be everyone's idea of the next essential DVD purchase but I can say that it should at least be rented from the store and watched maybe a couple of times over.  There are actually at least another dozen documentaries made about the man however this one is definately an informative insight into a quite unique individual.

I personally loved the laid-back approach of this documentary, which makes for an entertaining and relaxed way of learning that you can still be an individual in Hollywood and not have to follow the well-worn path of success.  This is one DVD I wouldn't mind watching a few times just to keep reminding myself of what the fellow is really like inside.