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Thursday, 30 June 2011

Clint Eastwood and learning to notice

Films are a great distraction. And I mean than in the most positive of ways. Nothing draws my attention quite like a good film. The big screen, even if mediated through a large TV, totally engages my thoughts, my emotions and my senses. Films are a great way 'taking your mind off things.' A chance to escape into another world. An ideal way to relax when your mind has been full of complex or troublesome thoughts.

There are some film stars whose films I know I can rely on to achieve that welcome break. One such is Clint Eastwood. I know he will provide a strong narrative, powerful characterisation, and action - often plenty of action! Real entertainment, but I can't remember ever having quoted a Clint Eastwood film in a sermon. I have just taken them at face value - a fun way to pass a couple of hours.

Book cover copyright Eerdmans
Then through my letterbox today came the cover in the picture and a blurb from a publisher seeking a review. I'm told that in the book the theologian Sara Anson Vaux traces the development of Eastwood's unfolding moral vision. That's a new one on me. I've simply never thought of seriously examining the star's films in this way, but why not?

On reflection I realise that they deal with some hefty themes: justice, confession, obsession, war and peace, gender, achievement, individualism, nobility, and the search for perfectability - to cite but a few. My consideration of those things has been obscured by the dominant idea of entertaining escapism is my viewing of Eastwood's films. I should have taken them more seriously - though no less entertainly! Vaux's book will be published here in November; I look forward to learning much from what she has to say.

In the meantime I need to take to heart again the preacher's task of working with people so that they can notice things that otherwise go unnoticed. Too often preaching is a restatement of the all too obvious, instead of the surprising disclosure of God it's meant to be. Revealing hidden depths and and signalling otherwise overlooked grace are crucial parts of what it's about. Thinking about Clint in a new way calls me back to something I too easily forget.

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