Saturday, December 27, 2008

Film Review: Changeling; Eastwood Does it Again

Film Review: Changeling

by Eric Green

LA Police Dept. [LAPD] Exposed Again
Eastwood Does A Great Job: Also, Again

If the creator of "Dirty Harry" and similar films is attempting to continue to establish a whole new legacy of his film making, "Changeling" is an important step in that direction. He has taken his often irreverent, in some cases anti-establishment characters, and turning them into social movement activists. In this case, Changeling, Clint Eastwood took a true story and put it on a Hollywood size screen and has done it well.

Expertly casted by the legendary Ellen Chenoweth [although she doesn't seem that old; check her out on the Web]; with cinematography by the expert lens of Tom Stern; and the music for the film created/written by Eastwood himself and arranged and developed by his long time colleague and jazz legend, Lenny Neihaus, this film has so many requisites it is hard to stick to the actual film content itself.

This is a dark film, and its filmed in a very dark method. The period, 1928-1935, is perfectly filmed and very realistic. You really feel you there and comfortable in that period, although while your comfortable in the period there is a rare moment in the film that is not discomfortable. The attention to detail of automobiles, trolleys, etc. was amazing. And, you learned how the telephone company worked through the lives of workers themselves.

The main story line is the corruption of the LAPD and the methods it used to deal with people who got in their way, i.e., police work or just personal attacks. Christine Collins, very well played by Angelina Jolle, had her son stolen by a deranged, Gordon Northcott, frighteningly played by Jason Butler Harner. How she got in the way of the LAPD is the true story line.

The main bad cop is played quite well by Jeffrey Donovan; and, Amy Ryan does a strong performance as a prostitute who comes to the aid and adviser to Collins.

The corruption and systematic tortures employed by the LAPD starts for many of us during the 1960s when it came to light that they were teaching these torture methods to the old Saigon police force. The wholesale killings and abuses were often traced back to the Saigon police force who got it from the LAPD. Not to say that the Diem regime couldn't apply torture itself, but the LAPD gave them the "legitimacy."

Well, that corrupt LAPD had a history before the 1960s.

In the 1920s one more abusive techniques of the LAPD was to put its enemies into psychiatric incarceration with the use of drugs and electric shock treatments. As the film reported these psychiatric torture methods were mostly used against woman enemies. It was called a C-12. A Rev. Gustav Briegleb, played perfectly by John Malkovich, comes to Collins' aid and helps unravel the LAPD abuses at the time.

Eastwood takes these events and makes them into a film that is educational and entertaining. The educational part is important to Eastwood these days. His two films on WWII, "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters from Iwo Jima," are cases in point.

Eastwood has come a long way since he was the right of center Mayor of Carmel, California [1986-88]. Then he supported Gov. Ronald Reagan. He now describes himself as a libertarian. If he is one, then he is a rare one with a socially conscious activism that takes on the right people to be opposed to. In 2003, Democratic Governor of California, Gray Davis, appointed him to the State Park and Recreation Commission where he served as co-chair. He was reappointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Recently, on a PBS television talk show with Charlie Rose, a couple of years ago, he expressed his opposition to the Iraq war. That was when it wasn't very popular in those circles. His opposition, as he said, went beyond just the Iraq war.

"Changeling" has largely been removed from distribution, but it is worth tracking down.