Play Misty For Me (1973)

Clint Eastwood directs himself, Jessica Walters and Donna Mills in this psychological thriller where a DJ fucks a fan who becomes violently obsessed with him.

A movie that is fascinating for three reasons. 1) The start of Clint’s directing career… a career that gifted us one of the most classical and confident filmmakers in current Hollywood. 2) The earliest pure example I know of the yuppie in peril / stalker thriller, a sub-genre that Natalie & I enjoy thoroughly. 3) Like the later, similar Fatal Attraction, it now proves a somewhat unintentional exploration of toxic masculinity. Clint is supposed to be the victim here, emasculated from what he “deserves” (young pussy and fame) by a one night stand who irrationally wants more than what he used out of her. And yes, Walters is unhinged in her actions and her juggernaut of a performance. She dominates scenes, unsettling Clint and us, leaving us with little air to breathe. It is the kinda great turn that should have made the future Lucille Bluth a household name… á la Kathy Bates and Glenn Close. Yet what is unusual is just how she boxes Eastwood… the man of action, at the height of his leading man box office status… in. He has very few options but to callously get on with his life and hope she gives up – moves on to another poor schlub or kills herself. Misty has dated. Your sympathies aren’t really with anyone as both lives car crash into each other. Emotionless lotharios and murderous harpies both merit worse than they get. But I’m sure Clint doesn’t share that assessmen. His later works show more sophistication but his personal life suggests he does see women as commodities to be humped and dumped. And to judge this attitude based purely on what happens on screen there’s that awful treacly romantic montage of lovemaking in the third act when our hounded DJ finally wins back his true love -young, bland, submissive. It feels like an advert for what men should get, for what Clint feels he is entitled to. It certainly isn’t intended as the cheesy slice of high camp it now plays out to for modern eyes. Modern eyes ruin a film like a Misty. Yet it still has a strange compulsive power.


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