A box office disaster - I say it's excellent
- White Hunter, Black Heart review by RP
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You rated this film: 4
Generally I don't like films about making films, films about actors, films about cinema, films about the film industry, films about Hollywood - they're just too incestuous. But I have to make an exception for this film - it's excellent.
The film was a box office disaster - and I still say it's excellent. But if you're looking for a Clint-type action film like 'Dirty Harry' or 'A Fistful of Dollars' or similar then you won't find it here and will probably be disappointed. On the other hand, Clint gives a well-acted - and amusing - portrayal of a film director.
The film is based on Peter Viertel's novel of the same name, and is a thinly disguised story of renowned film director John Huston during the making of the Bogart / Hepburn classic 'The African Queen'. The names are changed to protect the innocent - scriptwriter Peter Viertel becomes Peter Verrill, director John Huston becomes John Wilson, producer Sam Spiegel becomes Paul Landers and the film becomes 'The African Trader'.
Clint plays the director as an irascible, hot tempered, opinionated, hard drinking, womanising man who becomes obsessed with hunting and shooting an elephant - an obsession that he pursues to the detriment of his film-making. He finally comes to realise that his obsession is foolish and misguided, even a sin: "the only sin you can buy a license to commit". And his obsession ends in tragedy.
The director is shown as standing up for the underdog, for example when a woman makes derogatory remarks about Jews, and when the hotel owner abuses a black waiter. Both of these scenes are excellent, and Clint has lines - not just here, but throughout the film - which made me laugh out loud. And there are small roles for British acting stalwarts including Timothy Spall and Alun Armstrong amongst others.
The film may have been a commercial failure but I rate it as one of Mr Eastwood's best. 4/5 stars - recommended.