Transcript Gran Torino

“Gran Torino is in many ways a suburban
Unforgiven but with a more hopeful
message of redemption”
A film that “celebrates life and honour in the
same beautiful way that Letters from Iwo
Jima and Flags of Our Fathers did.”
“Can’t films be used to teach people instead of
sending messages of violence?”
He replied: “Yeah, I think they can do that.
They certainly have the ability. But I don’t
think that Hollywood should get to the point
of propagandizing. I mean, it should have it’s
effect unintentionally...”
After Unforgiven came out – a film about
violence and revenge...Are the messages of
Gran Torino ‘in your face’?
“Gran Torino is a film about regret and trying to
overcome it, no matter how old you are.”
What does Walt regret?
 Regrets not being close to his son
 Killing young men in Korea
 Cheating on his wife
 Selling a boat and not paying the tax
How is his regret shown?
 He has outbursts about war – He’s a bitter man
How does he redeem himself from it?
 He finally goes to confession (his wife’s request)
 Dies to put the gang members in jail.
“His squint alone has the ability to make lesser
filmmakers renounce the craft altogether and
his gravelly snarl has made plenty of punks
reassess the status of their luck.”
Stuck in his ways
A man at odds with himself, angry, bitter, lonely
Starts with growly, staunch old man. His relationship with Sue and Thao
softens him (single tear, sitting in the dark after what happens to Sue)
Independent, old man, his wife has just passed away
Two sons, not close to them at all
Worked for 50 years at Ford plant at Highland Park
Put steering column in his 1972 Gran Torino
Last white-American in a neighbourhood populated by immigrants
Values hard work, self reliance, respect
No tolerance for laziness or fools
Racist – ‘chinks’ ‘zipper-head’ mean at the start but racial slurs become
affectionate in the same way he speaks to his friends – the barber and
construction foreman.
Steps up and becomes ‘man of the house’ after the drive-by shooting.
Angry understanding about life and death – his life has been very bitter,
his death is bitter-sweet.
Resists relationships – Relationship with Sue and Thao and Father
Janovich is what allows him to find peace.
Eastwood’s films are personal to him (he has worked
with a number of people on his crews for many
years)...People have questioned if this will be the last
film Eastwood will act it. Appropriately we can ask is
this film Clint Eastwood (the man) contemplating his
own life and regrets? It would certainly seem so.
Eastwood’s films always contain unique friendships.
“Eastwood is looking for that universal connection
within his films”. In a number of his films, recently
and notably Gran Torino and Million Dollar Baby the
unique friendship takes the form of the
“mentor/protege” setup “the ones where people learn
from one another because they are from different
generations and see the world differently”.
“a strong stoic type whose sorrow lurks under the
surface but who is wept over by other characters and
by the audience” – Tania Modleski.
How does Eastwood achieve this with Walt?
“Here is a supreme instance of man’s loss turning
into a gain” – Modleski
A Hmong shaman tells Walt he is not at peace. In the
bathroom Walt considers his reflection and realises
he received more insight “from these gooks” than his
own family. He has more in common with people he
earlier despised than his children (who he is not all
that impressed with either). Advice from this Eastern
religion is more meaningful to Walt than the ideas of
a more traditional Catholic faith.
What does Dargis mean?
Walt is a typical representation of white racist old school America and if he can
change there is hope for everyone else. This kind of racism isn’t necessarily from
anger but from fear of the unknown.
Why did Eastwood end Gran Torino with the crucifixion pose? Clichéd?
Sentimental? Sacramental?
 The sacrifice a political message?
 Dargis – “the suicidal death of the twentieth century hero represents one
generation ‘making way for the next.’”
 “Thao, who in the film’s final shot is at the wheel of the car, presumably travelling
down the road of American freedom”
 Sue points out that Hmong people fought on America’s side during Vietnam war –
they died trying to save Americans, “but in the film the old white man dies to save
the Hmong and achieves absolution for the sins of American Imperialism.” – In the
same way Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima deal with realities of war,
is Eastwood making another partial political statement about war and it’s effects
on the people? Or airing guilt of the American people?
Million Dollar Baby deals with “suffering of the ‘white trash’ female boxer and the
pain of the black male” – Again Eastwood’s character takes on guilt of their lives
and it motivates his actions.
“The film expresses a melancholy sense of
America’s economic decline”
Clint Eastwood’s directorial work “questions
violence, vengeance and the viability of
Western notions of heroism.”
“Gran Torino appears to accept the impotence
of the lone avenging hero” – Walt knows he
alone can’t do much, but what he does do is
significant for the people he does it for. As
opposed to a ‘western’ hero who rides in,
shoots ‘em up and saves the day.
Central character motivated by the death of wife
(or loved one) – typical of westerns and
Eastwood’s films, both ones he has acted in and
(Especially recently) Eastwood plays a man at
odds with himself, his failures, weighed down by
his own refusal to forgive his sins.
Wrestles with complicated moral choices and
goes into grey areas (through cinematography
and thematic focuses.)
Escalates to a typically violent, melancholy
“All of the films Clint has directed have in common
a certain style and attitude...In general they
possess a sort of unforced naturalism...He likes
to do it [themes] straight-faced, effortlessly,
without giving the audience a warning or
explanation when he does insert his subtle
improvisations [on typical genre related
portrayals of themes]...At heart, Eastwood is a
subversive; an elusive director who does not care
to be easily understood, in fact, he prefers not to
let his hand show at all...”
“He commands your attention when he is
infront of the camera and he thoughtfully
crafts every moment of a film when he is
behind the camera. He makes the kind of
films that he wants to make with the
conviction that only a truly talented
filmmaker can get away with. He is
compassionate, socially conscious and not
afraid of controversial subject matter. Finally,
you always know that no matter how old he is
he is always capable of kicking your ass.
There is something eternally reassuring about
Walt’s wife’s last request to Father Janovich was that Walt go to
confession. She initiates their relationship which becomes an
important part of Walt’s realisation and redemption at the end of
the film.
Christian symbolism and spiritual conflict central to Walt’s
character – He’s never been at peace.
Film begins and ends in a church, with a death, gives a cyclical
balance to the film and ends on a final note of completion.
Father’s typical Catholic interpretation of life and death is naive.
Life is not black and white. It’s bloody. Walt’s bloody hands
express the messiness of life after he realises what’s happened
to Sue is partially his fault.
Confession – inevitably Walt confesses. He gets the minor things
off his chest. However, not the one thing that has really bothered
him. However he fulfils his wife’s dying wish. She is a reminder
of what was good in his life.
Confesses killing the boy to Thao – screen door a symbolic
confessional screen. Thao ‘saves’ Walt... Walt saves Thao...
Walt gives his life to save Thao and Sue. Walt
softens up through his relationship with
Thao, they develop a father-son relationship.
In a biblical parallel Walt dies in a crucifixion
position. Although, instead of the son dying,
the father figure dies to save the son.
Ending is typically Eastwood in it’s violence
and melancholy conclusion. However offers
Walt is proud to maintain it – washes it, brings it out
of the garage.
Unifying symbol – drives the action, the ‘vehicle’ that
brings Thao into Walt’s life.
Everyone wants it, Walt can’t understand why
A symbol of prosperous history of Highland Park and
Passes the car to Thao – a generational passing of
values. Thao has learnt important life lessons from
Final shot in the film is Thao and Daisy driving into
the sun, American highway... Driving to a hopeful
Other patriotic symbols: American Flag, Labrador,
Fridge “I fix things”, beer in the cooler.
Walt has lived his whole life with guilt of shooting a young
Korean boy during the Korean War.
After Hmong gang burn Thao’s face he beats up a gang member
and threatens him with a gun.
Guns symbolic/represent damaging effects of violence and
destruction that comes when we live with anger. Thao wants to
go ‘guns-blazing’ with Walt’s rifle. The same gun he shot the
Korean boy with in war. He doesn’t want Thao to be involved.
Walt considers himself “soiled”. He doesn’t want that for Thao.
Give Thao his medal of honour. He teaches Thao how to live
honourably and that doesn’t include violence and guns and
Thao wears the medal and drives the Gran Torino to the crime
scene – Sue and Thao stand and look at the gang being arrested
and taken away while Walt is put in a body bag in the ambulance.
Gran Torino is a redemption story. It revolves
around a man at the end of his life working
through the things he regrets. He does this
through finding meaningful relationships with his
two young neighbours who fill a desire for
meaningful family relationships, and a
developing relationship with Father Janovich who
represents his wife’s goodness and the Catholic
church. Father Janovich allows Walt to end his life
having fulfilled his wife’s dying wish and his own
desire to pass on his values of integrity and hard
work to another generation.