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”Million Dollar Baby” – One Movie, Two Voices

Posted March. 16, 2005 22:24,   


Non-excessive Art of Eastwood-

Nam Wan-seok: The movies that Clint Eastwood has made during his later years seem to have all the aspects that Hollywood favors. He adds philosophical talk of human beings and life whilst respecting the rules of a movie genre. On the other hand, Scorsese is a much more talented director but focuses on revealing reality too much, which doesn’t seem to fit into Hollywood’s taste.

Shim Young-sub: I think Eastwood’s movies are based on familism. Eastwood is a conservative. “Million Dollar Baby” also deals with a somewhat family-like theme, namely the story of a father and daughter. I think that’s what’s being favored in the Academies.

Nam: “Conservatism based on familism” is also Eastwood’s con. In Eastwood’s movies, the character and storyline are the focus of the movie and the technical experimentation is very limited.

Shim: I feel very differently on that…. I think Eastwood is the best classicist, naturalist American director alive following John Ford and Jean Renoir. The mysterious aspect of his movies is that there is no excessiveness. This is not because he doesn’t know the art of movies. In fact, he knows but chooses to ignore them. At a glance, his cuts seem plain and artless. However, in the end, he makes an impressive and overwhelming movie with an insight into the original nature of human beings, as if building bricks, one by one.

Nam: I think that the way Eastwood produces his movies t is the result of his course of life as an actor. From Macaroni Western to Dirty Harry, his characters had a cold but somewhat humorous, anti-heroic element. However, they change during his later years as he plays a character that is dying away inside the great wave of American history. Eastwood becomes more and more mature as time passes.

Shim: That is why people call Eastwood “The Miracle of Hollywood.” I think that miracle was possible because of Eastwood’s ability to reflect and contemplate on his past actions. The characters in his movies are cut off from the world, and that’s because of guilt. In “Unforgiven,” his first work that was awarded the director award in the Academy Awards, the main character William Money feels deeply in debt because of his past as a gunman. That’s the attitude he shows whilst questioning what his origin, western films, can do. For that reason, he makes better movies as he ages. It’s amazing. On account of that I feel that all the directors in the world should consider him as a model.

Drama inside the Ring-More than a Boxing Movie-

Shim: All great American macho movie directors seem to have wanted to make boxing movies. “Raging Bulls” directed by Scorsese, “Ali” by Michael Mann…. These directors presented the square ring as “a jungle without an exit.” Included also is the Korean movie “Yunkdosan.” However, Eastwood says more. The purpose of this movie is not to produce an elaborate boxing scene. What he says to his boxer Maggie is to “protect yourself.” Isn’t that the greatest affection a parent can show to their offspring? Unfortunately, life isn’t always like that. Life is too ambiguous and unexpected, and parents can not fight for them. Sometimes we even fall into an abyss of despair.

Nam: Why does Frankie participate in the Cathedral service and visit the Father? If Frankie is the assistant who stops the bleeding, the Father is someone who stops the “bleeding of the soul.” They are somehow partners in that they both heal wounds. Frankie refused to help mercy kill Maggie (Hilary Swank). But, in the end, he did what she wanted him to do when she bit her tongue. The moment that Maggie hemorrhaged… The time for him to act has come. In short, he has to stop the bleeding.

Shim: That’s why the core theme of this movie is “scar” along with the sense of sin and courage. The only big close-up was the scene that featured a wound on a boxer’s eye. Wounds that main actors or actresses get in Eastwood’s movies are usually so deep that they cannot be reversed, and the bleeding from the wounds cannot be stopped since they are too close to the bones. Eastwood talks about what human beings can do for others under such circumstances. Why is the fight money of the champion Maggie a million dollars? That does not mean Maggie, who once stayed barely afloat with a few cents from tips, has become a person worth a million dollars. That is not important. What is important is that the value of the relationship between Frankie and Maggie has become worth $1 million. The basic source of healing power is the trust between the two and the concentration that only the two can hear their voices in the ring. The figure, one million, can be changed to a one language. “Mokushura”(my sincere fellow)

A Strong Movie Made by the Light, Music, and Voice-

Shim: Don’t you think the light is the most important formation factor?

Nam: It is dark. The contrast is very strong…

Shim: All the essential motives and relations that the characters in the movie processed were in the dark. The scenes in which Frankie promised to become Maggie’s trainer and in which Frankie helped Maggie’s easy death happen in the shadows. Instead, crucial scenes in which Maggie collapsed in the ring and Maggie’s family forced her to take over legacy occurred in the daylight. He seems to show the depth of the human’s insides with the light.

Nam: The moderation of music doubles the solemnity of the movie. Eastwood made all the things. He is a jazz lover and directed “Piano Blues,” one of the Scorsese’s “blues” documentary series.

Shim: The first person narration is also an attraction that we cannot miss along with the music. Most narrations are subjective or emotional so that it is easy to become very childish, but Morgan Freeman’s script is very contemplated and philosophical. The delight in the beginning part of the movie lies in the great scripts-- “There is respect in boxing. While keeping their own respect, they are stealing their partner’s. The miracle of boxing is in patience. Boxers tolerate and endure any pain and fight even after the ribs are broken or the retina hurts. Boxers seem to set their all things because of the dream that only they can see.”

Nam: Then, will the movie be remembered one of the masterpieces in movie history? What do you think?

Shim: Well, I don’t think that Eastwood wanted to make such a movie. He seems to be a discerning person who wants to tell what he knows and live in the world just as Frankie was the assistant who was good at healing wounds rather than training the champion. Best in the assistant. Maybe, the greatest second is much better than an arrogant first.

Eun-Ryung Chong ryung@donga.com