Play Misty For Me (1971)

 

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Rating: The Good – 74.3
Genre: Thriller
Duration: 102 mins
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Jessica Walter, Donna Mills

Considering the praise Clint Eastwood’s more recent directorial projects have received, it’s surprising how little focus there has been on his earlier efforts especially given that they are of a far superior quality in both craft and entertainment value. His directorial debut, Play Misty For Me, is the perfect example of such given how well he balances a somewhat experimental style with a gripping story. He stars as a modestly successful disc jockey who is finds himself the focus of an increasingly frightening and disturbed young woman who develops an obsession with him after they share a one-night stand together. Jessica Walter is really very good as the stalker as she gives one extreme reaction after another a chilling believability. Eastwood for his part offers his usual steady presence but seems to revel in the chance to play a more emotionally exposed character that he had typically done up to that point in his career.

Behind the camera, he shows great patience as nothing is forced or rushed into. On the contrary, the film plays out with an unusually slow but welcome momentum. This makes the more violent sequences all the more effective as protracted periods of quiet drama are interrupted with the piercing mania of the obsessed Walter. While the palettes and style is very much of the 70’s, there’s more than a hint of 60’s cinema in how Eastwood sews everything together. The thriller element to the story is softly bedded in a soulful medley of jazz festivals and romantic interludes where dialogue is suspended in favour of music that was as experimental for the time as the cinematic wave Eastwood’s directorial debut was part of. All told, Play Misty for Me is a vintage quality thriller that despite being very much of its time will never lose its cinematic relevance due to the class and focus that went into its making.

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