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  • One of Clint Eastwood's most unjustly-neglected movies... he directed and stars as a cranky, strong-willed movie director (he's actually playing the real-life John Huston, though his character is called "Wilson" in the movie... and the book it was based on). In Africa to direct an action-comedy ("The African Queen" in real life) Wilson throws the project into turmoil when he suddenly becomes obsessed with hunting and killing an elephant. "It's not a crime... it's bigger than that... it's a SIN," he says by way of justification. It takes a while to get used to Clint trying to play John Huston... trying to talk in a different style of voice than we're used to hearing... but the dialog and story are so compelling that you forget that Clint really is the wrong guy for this role. And yet, by the time the movie reaches it's devastating final line... Clint has made the character his own. As far as Clint's directing work goes... I would rank this film right after "Unforgiven"!
  • I must admit that Clint Eastwood was the main reason why I watched this movie. I'm already quite familiar with his work as an actor and as a director - even though I still haven't seen his biggest success "Million Dollar Baby" yet - and overall I can enjoy his work. Does that mean that I love all his movies? No, certainly not, but most of the time, he's the one who saves the movie, even when it isn't all that good. Knowing that he directed this movie and played a major role in it, only made it more interesting for me.

    "White Hunter Black Heart" shows how the world famous movie director John Huston is planning on making a trip to Africa, where he will shoot his next movie. But despite his reputation of being a good director, he is also a very difficult man to work with. He doesn't want to make any concessions towards the producers and to make things worse he is also more interested in shooting the biggest elephant possible than shooting his movie and there is nothing or no-one who can bring him to other ideas...

    Overall this is a good movie, although I must say that the beginning didn't do it for me. At first I had the feeling that the characters weren't all that real. They felt too much like caricatures, almost making this movie feel like a comedy, which it certainly isn't. That's also the reason why I wasn't exactly thinking about giving this movie a very high rating. But I always make that final decision at the end of the movie and I admit that the end of the movie was a lot better than the beginning. Not only was it very clear that John Wilson felt himself more at ease in Africa than in England, his reactions after the hunt also showed that this wasn't yet another typical type of quiet tough guy without any human emotions that Clint Eastwood plays so often. I really appreciated that in this movie. What I also liked was the entire 'behind the scenes of a classic movie' idea. OK, if you regularly buy a DVD, then you know from the extra's how a movie is shot. But that's how it is done today with all the modern techniques, camera's, lighting equipment. They didn't have all that in the fifties and it's nice to see how it was done back then.

    Overall this is an enjoyable movie that offers some good acting and an interesting story. If the beginning had been more believable, this might well have become one of my all-time favorites. Now I give it a rating in between 7/10 and 7.5/10.
  • One of the most intellectual and unknown films from actor and director Clint Eastwood , at the height of his best work as acting as filmmaking , and based on real events . A thinly fictionalized account of a legendary movie director, the world famous film director John Huston , whose desire to hunt down an animal turns into a grim situation , he has gone to Africa to make his next movie , but he is more interested in hunting large tusked elephants that shooting the movie he came to Africa to produce . Eastwood stars , directs and produces this original adventure film that alternates with great skill and unique perspective, a recreation of the early stages in the filming "The African Queen" and the obsession of its director to hunt elephant tusks in the middle portentous African Savannah .

    Very good performance by Eastwood who gives a self-destructive portrait of the protagonist John Wilson , a facade for John Huston's The African Queen. High performances filled with silences , glances, gestures , supported by an excellent support cast as Jeff Fahey's character is based on Peter Viertel, George Dzundza's on Sam Spiegel ; Marisa Berenson's on Katharine Hepburn and Richard Vanstone's on Humphrey Bogart . Even Katharine Hepburn contested the accuracy of the film . Interesting script with writing credits from prestigious screenwriters as Peter Viertel (novel's author and married to Deborah Kerr), Burt Kennedy and James Bridges , his writing on the screenplay became the final film work .

    This interesting film results to be an extraordinary building a peculiar character inspired in John Huston as an obstinate, contrary director who'd rather hunt elephants than takes care of his crew or movie . Nobody is better than a great actor-turned-best director, Clint Eastwood , to impersonate one of the greatest American filmmakers with portentous personality and special character . The particularities regarding his crafty , eccentric womanizer and "bon vivant" found in Houston turned to be perfectly incarnated into the wonderful interpretation of Eastwood who provides everything needed to display the charisma and genius of this character . Based on 1953's accounts written by Peter Viertel and well played by Jeff Fahey referring his experiences working on James Agee's screenplay . The small steamboat that they used in the whitewater scene is the same boat that Humphrey Bogart's character captained in The African Queen . Furthermore , the picture displays an atmospheric and sensible musical score by Lennie Niehaus , Eastwood's usual . Colorful cinematography by Jack N. Green filmed on location in Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe , Zambia and in studio : Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England, UK . Rating : Good , better than average .
  • Reb910 June 1999
    This film is based on a book by Peter Viertel who worked with Huston on a number of projects. He shares writing credit with Huston on We Were Strangers. The book and film give us Viertel's version of what it was like to work with the great John Huston on The African Queen. Viertel finally bailed out and Huston and cast somehow managed to create a masterpiece. Eastwood plays the fictional representation of Huston to the hilt, creating one of his most memorable roles. This is a film that you have to work at. If you know a little of the history, though, it is well worth seeing.
  • (4 outta 5 stars)

    One of Clint Eastwood's most unjustly-neglected movies... he directed and stars as a cranky, strong-willed movie director (he's actually playing the real-life John Huston, though his character is called "Wilson" in the movie... and the book it was based on). In Africa to direct an action-comedy ("The African Queen" in real life) Wilson throws the project into turmoil when he suddenly becomes obsessed with hunting and killing an elephant. "It's not a crime... it's bigger than that... it's a SIN," he says by way of justification. It takes a while to get used to Clint trying to play John Huston... trying to talk in a different style of voice than we're used to hearing... but the dialogue and story are so compelling that you forget that Clint really is the wrong guy for this role. And yet, by the time the movie reaches it's devastating final line... Clint has made the character his own. As far as Clint's directing work goes... I would rank this film right after "Unforgiven"... yes, even better than "Mystic River"!
  • White Hunter, Black Heart both left me confused as well as breathless. The movie, that I saw earlier this year on television, struck me as deep yet peculiar. Clint Eastwood, in one of his most memorable roles ever, John Wilson, goes out to shoot an elephant while what he really should be doing is shoot a Hollywood movie in the 1950s.

    The only person on the crew who shares his view and almost understand him is Pete Verril (Jeff Fahey), a writer brought on to improve the script. Although Pete supports Wilson, Pete realizes that the hunt of an elephant is more than just an adventure for Wilson, but an obsession. Wilson is willing to compromise the entire crew's careers and futures just to commit "the only legal sin."

    The movie has certain themes, including conservation, obsession and movie-making theories. The themes aren't explored too well, which explains the muddled ending. But still this is an enjoyable film.

    Based on a novel by Peter Viertel, based on his experiences while filming the African Queen, the film is either going to grip you from the start, or bore you to death. You'll ever like it or forget it. The ending takes a little figuring out (especially at mentioning the title), but people who like movies about film making and Africa should like this.
  • Perhaps the greatest treat that can be found in Clint Eastwood's 1990 film "White Hunter Black Heart", a fictionalized account of the pre-production phase of the 1951 classic "The African Queen", is Eastwood's leading performance. His trademark acting style is usually stereotyped as the tough guy persona; he squints a lot and speaks only when he has to. An act of violence would usually suffice instead. But here we have Eastwood in rare form, showing us a side that we seldom see in his movies.

    The film opens with a man riding quickly on horseback over a British estate, his face obscured by a riding helmet. We are given some brief narration by Pete Verrill (played by Jeff Fahey and based on screenwriter Peter Viertel), who is flying in to see this masked rider. Verrill is the extension of the audience; he is our eyes and ears as he works alongside Eastwood's character to develop the film that would be known as "The African Queen". Eastwood plays John Wilson, a thinly disguised version of iconic director/actor John Huston. Introducing his character on horseback is a way we've come to recognize Eastwood in films, but the way he acts for the rest of the picture is anything but what we would normally expect from him.

    Wilson, despite staying at his friend's estate, is down and out and deeply in debt. Verrill is here to get the creative wheels flowing again, helping to finish the script for "The African Trader" (the name given to the film within the film), however Wilson only seems interested in going to Africa to hunt elephants; the picture is more of an afterthought. Viertel wrote the book this film was based on, which in turn was based on his experiences with Huston while making "The African Queen". Viertel also had a hand in the screenplay for this film.

    Now that I've gotten some of the plot out of the way, let me get back to Eastwood's performance. He nails Huston's distinctive speech pattern and way of presenting himself. It is a rare sight to see Eastwood play such a flamboyant character, a suave and sophisticated gentleman who whips people into shape with long monologues and anecdotes instead of his fists, with one exception that also plays against audience expectations. I honestly can't think of another film where he has so much dialogue.

    Despite this spectacular leading performance, the film is flawed by its overall ambition. It is as if Eastwood the director, after the acclaim of his previous biopic "Bird", had finally decided that he was an auteur. You have a film that wants to take on the creative process, a look behind the scenes, and show how one man's genius can be undermined by his selfishness and obsession. There is also some "Moby Dick" inspired stuff with the hunting of the elephant being about something more profound and enlightening. All of these themes don't exactly click together as they should, but the journey getting there is enough.

    What you are left with is an underrated character study. As usual with his period pieces, the attention to detail of both time and place is exquisite. And like most of his films, the movie builds to a climactic showdown, with an ending and closing moment that are among the best of Eastwood's entire filmography.
  • The egocentric, stubborn and grumpy Hollywood director John Wilson (Clint Eastwood) invites his friend Pete Verrill (Jeff Fahey) to write the screenplay of his next movie that will be a masterpiece in his opinion. He convinces the producer Paul Landers (George Dzundza) that the movie must be shot in Africa and they travel to the continent. Once in Africa, John becomes obsessed to hunt an specific elephant and neglects his cast and crew prioritizing the hunting with the native Kivu (Boy Mathias Chuma).

    "White Hunter Black Heart" is an underrated fictional movie directed by Clint Eastwood. The character John Wilson is based on the director John Huston. Clint Eastwood has an amazing work performing a character with strong personality and stubbornness. My vote is eight.

    Title (Brazil): "Coração de Caçador" ("Hunter Heart")
  • macataque29 December 2004
    On one level, this film is a failure: It's a fictionalized knock-off of the behind-the-scenes machinations of the making of "The African Queen" with Bogart & Hepburn directed by John Huston. This surface level is not so enthralling. On a second level, the level I believe the artists really wanted to put across, it isn't so enthralling either. Nevertheless, they are to be commended for attempting something unusual: An effort to show the creative process -- and the fears lurking within barring the fruition of art, often at great costs to health and personal relationships. In ranking Eastwood's films, this film falls below "Unforgiven", "Million Dollar Baby", "Bird" or "The Bridges of Madison County", but the subtext here raises its status. A must-see for the serious artist or wannabe.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Now that Clint Eastwood has deservedly won Best Director and Best Picture for 2004's *Million Dollar Baby*, and now that the rest of America's critics have caught up with those of us who have been continually asserting that Eastwood is this country's best living director, one hopes that the curious or just plain inspired will take a look at the man's impressive back-catalog. Treasures await.

    Like, for example, 1990's *White Hunter Black Heart*. If his previous film, *Bird*, had announced new auterist ambitions, then this movie not only certified them, but threw everyone for a loop as well. It was perhaps a bit too soon for people to accept Eastwood in a "character" role, playing, in fact, a loose version of director John Huston. Some people may still have trouble with this. The obvious solution is to recognize that the movie is ultimately about Clint Eastwood rather than John Huston. The artistic concerns put on display here -- the difficulty of a "living legend" to live down his own hype and continue to be artistically relevant; the addiction to machismo that tends toward self-destruction; the realization of the relative insignificance of even an "important" person in the context of a wide world; the destructiveness of violence within any context -- have bedeviled Eastwood every bit as much as they bedeviled Huston. Perhaps more so, because after a lifetime of portraying gunslinging outlaws, followed by a stretch as a bloodthirsty, reactionary "enforcer" of the law, Eastwood's resume of on-screen machismo and mindless violence had a hell of a lot more to answer for. If the best films he has directed in the Nineties and in the new millennium are often about, in one way or another, atoning for his own legend as a performer, then *White Hunter Black Heart* is the opening salvo. Call it *Unforgiven: The Prequel*.

    Those who still quibble about Eastwood's performance here should finally consider that the story is based on screenwriter Peter Viertel's NOVEL, in which the famous director is called "John Wilson". This bald technicality frees Eastwood from worrying about whether or not he's mimicking John Huston correctly. (Hell, if it didn't worry Viertel as a writer, why should Eastwood worry about it as an actor or director?) In any case, Eastwood eases into the role as the movie wears on: by the end of the picture, when he's faced with his own folly after a devastating loss of a new friend, the self-abnegating call for "action!" on the set is a tremendous moment, fraught with nihilistic courage. Eastwood surprises us by how much he grows into the role -- we believe that last moment. And we have to, because that final sequence is the grand culmination of what the movie has been about all along: one man's limitations driven home to him in spades. It's not enough to be a wise and witty man who KNOWS what those limitations are; he must FEEL them.

    The ambiguities of the movie's title are also striking. "White hunter, black heart." What does it mean? Just before the great climax, a fellow "white hunter", one of Wilson's safari guides, interprets a lamenting chant from the aboriginals after they learn the news that a respected local man has died (a man whose death Wilson just might be ultimately responsible for). "White hunter, black heart," the fellow says to Wilson. Twice. In ominous tones. The easy interpretation is that Wilson is essentially a bad man. "Shooting an elephant isn't a crime," he has earlier explained to the disgusted Viertel character, "it's a SIN." But if the Africans aren't above killing elephants, why should Wilson be? Perhaps the phrase indicates that the locals consider this white man to be spiritually kin not just to them, but to their fallen hero as well. Perhaps this inherent kinship gives Wilson the power to walk over to the director's chair and commence directing the enjoyable nonsense called *The African Queen*. Perhaps such a movie required an African King to direct it: white hunter, black heart.

    9 stars out of 10.
  • Clint Eastwood's caricature of legendary moviemaker John Huston marked a change of pace at the time from the Malpaso Man's usual shoot-'em-ups. But because this semi-fictional account of Huston's elephant safari during the filming of 'The African Queen' is so thinly disguised, all the coy name changes (Eastwood is "John Wilson") and character imitations seem pointless. The actor-director mimics Huston's distinctive voice and mannerisms with refreshing, unflattering candor, but is too relaxed to accurately capture the older filmmaker's irresponsible iconoclasm (when faced with a charging wild elephant one almost expects him to mutter, "...go ahead, jumbo, make my day.") It could have been a fascinating character study of silver screen illusions and obsessions, but too much of the film is marred by Eastwood's pedestrian direction (POV shots from a monkey?) and by Pete Viertel's self-promoting autobiographical screenplay, presenting himself (as 'The African Queen' co-writer "Pete Verrill") in a too transparently flattering portrait: honest, handsome, and (of course) a "brilliant" artist.
  • Director John Wilson goes to Africa to make his next film.With him is a young writer named Pete Verrill.The making of the movie becomes harder when John develops an obsession of killing an elephant.Even though he knows it's not just a crime against nature to do such a deed, but a sin.Clint Eastwood, who turned 80 earlier this year, is the director of White Hunter, Black Heart (1990).The story is obviously based on the experiences of John Huston when he went to make The African Queen.Clint does a great job in the lead as John Hus...I mean Wilson.Jeff Fahey is terrific as Pete Verrill.Charlotte Cornwell is very good as Miss Wilding.George Dzundza is superb as Paul Landers.Eastwood, who still keeps working like crazy, has made better pictures than this.But still, it's pretty entertaining to watch this African adventure.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    John Wilson is a maverick Hollywood film director with a reputation for self-destructive egocentric behaviour. His latest movie is a drama set in Africa and he hires Pete Verrill, a writer, to assist with the script. Pete soon discovers however that Wilson is much more interested in shooting an elephant than shooting a movie …

    Although the names have been changed, this is obviously a story about John Huston and the notoriously arduous shooting of his 1951 classic The African Queen. It's not really so much about the movie however as the man, and as a character study of the dictatorial, risk-taking temperament required to be a successful movie director it's first-rate. Aside from being tall, Eastwood does not resemble Huston either physically or professionally yet he does what any good actor can do and disappears into this persona. He seems larger than life, gleefully shocking polite society ladies and stubbornly refusing to behave like a professional, but by all accounts this was what Huston was like. He may be insufferable, but he is candid, honest, witty, and seizes life by the throat whilst others are simply swept along. It's one of Eastwood's most extreme and remarkable performances, and he is ably supported by the very capable cast, notably the underrated Fahey. Movies about movies are often either vacuous (America's Sweethearts) or pretentious (8½) but by concentrating on character, and filling out its story with satire and humour, this is one of the most interesting. Written by Peter Viertel, James Bridges and Burt Kennedy, based on a novel by Viertel (who was married to Deborah Kerr for fifty years). Photographed in beautiful locations in Zimbabwe and at West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire.
  • "White Hunter Black Heart" is directed and played by Clint Eastwood.

    Clint Eastwood plays John Wilson (the great director John Huston in real life) in this movie, and shows us how he spent his time trying to hunt an elephant in Africa the previous weeks an days before to begin shooting the famous movie "The African Queen".

    I liked the performance of Clint Eastwood as John Wilson (John Huston), but I didn't like that so much time in the movie were focus in the hunting of the elephant. I would have liked to watch more about how the movie "The African Queen" was shot, and how were the relationships between John Huston, Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn during the shooting.
  • Narcissists are the bane of existence, unless they happen to be on stage and entertaining us. Aside from that, I find it best to stay far, far away from such folks. Some call such people "characters," I call them a**holes. They make life difficult for those around them and John Wilson is no exception. In fact, Eastwood's egocentric behavior causes life to become fatally difficult for one poor soul.

    I am puzzled by those who see this as some of Eastwood's greatest acting. It soon becomes clear that he is doing an impression of John Huston, which is fine, and is recognizable, however I don't think he delivered a single line which I believed. I was constantly taken out of the movie by what I considered to be in fact very bad acting by Eastwood, at least vocally. Supporting actors were not much better, that one guy attempting a poor German accent I believe, and I felt they were all blown out of the water acting-wise by the folks who only had a couple of lines. The spectacle of this narcissist's self centered romp through his life provides a number of action sequences which do suit Eastwood, including a bit of "Any Which Way You Can" bare knuckle fighting. The film is sparse, probably intended to give a documentary feel. Very little in the way of soundtrack. Photography was disappointedly lame. In a movie such as this where I am looking for something to distract me, interesting photography can help. However, probably due to the documentary style choice, the only vaguely interesting shots were brief transition shots between scenes.

    Ultimately the narcissist is forced into some realization of his gross selfishness and negligence, and finally comes to accept his obligations to others, although it seems more out of defeat than anything else.
  • This film is billed as being 'loosely based' on an episode in the life of John Huston. 'Loosely based' is a misnomer as this film couldn't be about anything BUT John Huston, right down to Clint's attempt to imitate Huston's arch quasi-British-accented drawl. The episode is Huston's sojourn in Africa to direct a movie whose title is never mentioned in the film (the closest is when Clint-cum-Huston, asked the title, replies, "I don't know. The African something-or-other." A bit too coy). This pretense of not knowing the film wears thinner and thinner as we see the spitting image of the boat that was used in "The African Queen", and as two stars arrive who look and sound just like Kate Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart (but are not so named in the film). The 'Bogart' character, on the first day of filming, even wears a costume exactly like that H.B. wore in the movie. This is a docudrama about the making of "The African Queen" that is pretending not to be a docudrama about the making of "The African Queen." What is it pretending to be? I don't really know, as it is just a disjointed series of episodes that show us - I guess - what a wild and crazy guy John Huston was. But he is not, at least in this movie, wild and crazy enough to sustain a whole movie. It has what appears to be intended as a 'tragic' ending, but it falls flat. There doesn't seem to be any point to the whole thing. Skip it. See "The African Queen" again instead.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Is this movie a masterpiece or a dog? The other reviews here present a wide range of opinions. It's true that Clint is playing a bastard for the first 100 minutes of the film, and he does talk so much that his character alienates himself from the sympathy of the audience, but that's the point, you're SUPPOSED to hate him! The supporting cast is collectively given the "hero's role" as foil to their tyrannical boss. It's also true that at it's core, this film is about the creative process of a movie director, the John Houston character, who must work himself into a state of self-revulsion before he feels ready to film a work of art. But it is not true that the movie's title is an insult to the director. In the last few moments of the film, Clint's character suffers the loss of one of his native guides. And when the other guides dub him "white hunter, black heart", it is in praise of his soul, not in condemnation. This movie is truly a masterpiece, and probably Clint's highest achievement.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film a clef presents Peter Viertel, who had a hand in writing "The African Queen," as what appears to be the principal author of the screenplay. Since he was present during the shooting of "The African Queen" (1951) and since he wrote this fictionalized account of the making of the movie, he's intelligent, sensitive, handsome, talented, and humane. He's played by Jeff Fahey, who is at least handsome, whatever else he is.

    The real director was John Huston who wound up making one of the best-crafted films of his career in Africa. He's played by the director of the current movie, Clint Eastwood. Eastwood is hired to shoot the film but his real interest -- his passion -- isn't making the movie but rather shooting a bull elephant. He keeps putting off the movie in pursuit of the game. The shooting of "The African Queen" doesn't even begin until the very end, and the last word is "action." I hope I didn't get that too mixed up. The plot is easy enough to follow but describing it is a bit of a challenge. It's not about shooting "The African Queen." It's about preparing to shoot "The Afican Queen." The Katherine Hepburn character (Marissa Berenson) appears only briefly and has a few lines. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall are barely noticeable.

    Eastwood, who also directed, does a recognizable impersonation of John Huston's distinctive intonations. That's the easy part. I can do it myself. The script initially gives us a cheerful, charming, and witty Huston, all smiles and cigarillos. Drunkenly, nobly, he gets into a fist fight with a bigger and younger man and is pounded to the ground. His friends help him to his feet and one of them says, "We'd better get a doctor." "He's hurt that bad, huh?", Eastwood gasps.

    But once we get to Africa the story turns a bit and so does Eastwood. He loses whatever sense of responsibility he had to the producers and crew and concentrates on finding that damned big tusker he wants as a trophy. I could never understand why anyone would want to shoot and kill a mammoth like that. They're a danger to no one. They eat grass and leaves and mind their own business. This is being written three weeks after poachers in a national park in Zimbabwe poisoned an elephant watering hole and killed about 300 of the beasts.

    At any rate, this film reminded me of a short from an entirely different genre. Laurel and Hardy are preparing a boat they intend to launch. They saw away at it, step the mast, paint the hull. All kinds of pratfalls and mistakes take place. The boat sinks the moment it touches water. The whole comedy was a set up for a much larger adventure that never comes off.

    Instead of a story about the actual making of "The African Queen," which was quite an adventure in itself, we have a character study of a John-Huston-like figure. And it fails to really come off, even as a character study. In the penultimate scene, Eastwood confronts a huge elephant who presents him with a perfect shot only a few feet away. Eastwood doesn't shoot. Okay. I understand that much. Faced with such magnificence, Eastwood experiences finally a kind of external reality. There are values that transcend his own.

    But then his "native bearer" and admired friend, Kivu, sacrifices his own life to save Eastwood's. I don't believe it. And when Eastwood and company return to begin shooting the picture, just after the death, Eastwood looks glum, but I have no idea what he's thinking beyond the obvious remorse.

    It's colorful and Huston was a Byronic figure, but this ought to be more fun than it is.
  • "White Hunter, Black Heart" is very much a character driven film. The plot is easy to give a summery of: a movie director named John Wilson (Clint Eastwood) wants to shoot a film in Africa so he can hunt down an elephant.

    The very first time I saw this movie, my first impression of Eastwood's performance was that it seem a little odd. I wasn't sure what he was doing there. But as the film went on, I realized that he was lost in his performance. The performance seems to take over at some point. I think it's a great performance from Eastwood, and as a director, it's another strong film from him. With each viewing of this film, I seem to like it even more. My rating: 9/10
  • When a legendary individual becomes so intimidating to his contemporaries that few fail to confront him during his lifetime, an attempt must be made after his demise. One such individual is William Randolph Hearst. The movie which unveiled his Napoleonic rigidity and overpowering demeanor was none other than Citizen Kane. The great Orsen Wells provided the interior man of his statuesque frame and he filled his shoes so convincingly, Hurst attempted to block it's released. In this film "White Hunter, Black Heart" we have another legend, the late great director, John Huston, {John Wilson] ham-handedly personified by a living legend, Clint Eastwood. While viewing the film which included Jeff Fahey as writer Pete Verrill and Charlotte Cornwell as Wilson's Secretary, one could not doubt but "see" John Huston's in the form of Eastwood. At times, during the movie, it's easy as Mr. Huston was known by his inner circle of friends and enemies as being a poetic director, social philosopher, loud mouth braggart and drunken adventurer. Eastwood put much of himself into his performance of Huston and does an admirable job, but in doing so, we see Eastwood, not Huston. Nevertheless, the film is a dedicated work of art to the movie African Queen, which by any account is a majestic tribute to both men. ***
  • A maverick film director John Wilson seeks to make his next film "The African Queen" in Africa, but a couple weeks before he and his crew leave. Writer Pete Verill is brought onto the project the polish up the script. Verill also learns that's there more to Wilson wanting to go to Africa and that's to hunt down an elephant. When they arrive in Uganda, the obsession has overwhelmed his mind, as now the film is secondary to his personal goal. The production Manager is becoming increasingly worried that Verill tries to convince him not to pull out, but Wilson isn't making it any better.

    You got to admire Eastwood for taking a big step out of his comfort zone to launch into the shoes to play one of Hollywood's larger than life directors, John Huston. Despite not using his name (as the name used is John Wilson), it's loosely based on the novel of Peter Viertel, which follows the circumstances surrounding the filming of "The African Queen (1950)". It's has nothing to do with the making of that film, but the sharply innovative and literate screenplay by Peter Viertel, James Bridges and Burt Kennedy strikes up an absorbing tale of egotistically proud obsession. Eastwood's highly tuned and impressively bold direction gives the film a classy polish, if majestic touch. Giving it weight was beautiful location photography. The pacing of it is rather relaxed; despite some slow patches I never found it to fall flat because of first-rate editing by Joel Cox. I wouldn't go out of my way to call it extremely exciting, but Eastwood's ruggedly well-defined direction makes sure it keeps you watching and ends off on a moving note. No doubt, this is one of Eastwood's most excellent exercises in directing, but his sincerely effective and robust portrait of a driven, self-centred film-maker was extremely good. Especially since, it's pretty different in vain to most characters he plays. There's nothing complex to the simple laced story, but there are many interesting facets rose within the thoughtfully balanced material and evening it out is some wryly crackling wit. The central protagonist who was always wearing a grin and showering us with charismatically vocal mannerisms only seems to fascinate us more with his cryptic free spirit. I see some complaints about the overall downbeat outcome the film ends with, but this only adds to the irony to what's discussed early on in the feature. The closing credits are captured on a hauntingly stunning backdrop. The rest of the cast may lay in the shadow of Eastwood, but the likes of Jeff Fahey ( who impeccably plays the idealistically pleasant writer Pete Verill) George Dzundza ( the concerned producer Paul Landers) make for good sparing partners for Wilson. The congenial Maria Berenson plays Kathern Hepburn under the name of Kay Gibson.

    This epic feature is a marvellous rarity that potently covers all bases and leaves you wanting more. A excellent stepping stone, which would lead to "Unforgiven". Highly Recommended.
  • cliodhna215 February 2010
    White Hunter Black Heart is loosely based the true story of the making of The African Queen (1951). The screenplay is based on the book by Peter Viertel who worked with director John Huston during the making of the film.

    Clint Eastwood directs himself as an actor, playing the director John Wilson (a.k.a John Huston). With me so far? The story starts in the United Kingdom, where the irascible Wilson/Huston is trying to get funding for a film set in Africa. Sidekick Pete Verrill is drafted in to work on the script and eventually the whole shebang makes it to Entebbe (Uganda). However, it rapidly becomes apparent that Wilson/Huston has little interest in making a film, and his real reason for being there is to shoot and kill the biggest elephant he can find. Suffice to say, it all ends in tears. And that's about it for the plot.

    It's pretty feeble stuff. And sadly, the lack of a plot isn't made up for by fantastic performances from the cast. The main problem is Eastwood himself. Wilson is written as a complex, egotistical, inconsistent, selfish character, and Eastwood just doesn't have the depth or weight to carry it off. The performance isn't helped by the fact that in places he looks physically frail. Eastwood's performance borders on an impersonation of John Hughes - a caricature more than a characterisation. Because of this, the film takes on a cartoonish, somewhat comedic air at times (but it's far from a comedy).

    Eastwood isn't helped by the script. Given the whole thing revolves around a man who wants to kill an elephant, we never really understand why. Halfway through, there is a lengthy monologue where Wilson/Huston takes a moral stand against a woman who declares that Hitler was right to try to kill the Jews. It's followed by another long scene where he ends up in a bare knuckle brawl with the hotel manager who he sees mistreating his (black) staff. Wilson/Hudson explains his behaviour with 'We fought the preliminary for the k*kes; now we'll fight the main event for the n*ggers' This valiant supporter of human rights is the same man who harbours an obsessive need to kill an elephant? It seems the inconsistency doesn't make sense to the cast either. When challenged to explain his bloodlust, Wilson/Huston's answer is: 'It's not a crime... it's bigger than that... it's a SIN'. And that's all we get. It just doesn't add up.

    What does make White Hunter worth watching is the beautiful photography of the African landscape. Also good is the unexpected appearance of Timothy Spall (of Auf Wiedersehen Lads fame) as Hodkins, the eccentric Bush pilot. He's not great either, but he does his best. Finally, Marisa Berenson, in the minor role of Kay Gibson (a.k.a. Katherine Hepburn) doesn't show up very often, but when she does, she's somehow riveting . Oh, and there's a really, really cute baby elephant.

    Clint Eastwood directed this film two years after he directed the excellent Bird (1988). Watch Bird instead.
  • A knock-off of a fictionalized recounting of eccentric film director John Huston's safari experience in Africa during the filming of African Queen, Eastwood creates and plays a peculiar quixotic and egocentric Houston-like character. As with most Eastwood films, "White Hunter, Black Heart" follows the formula for Hollywood product success making it an entertaining but very lukewarm watch.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Clint Eastwood tries acting out of his normal character in this movie, being as verbose as possible. Not knowing how director John Huston looked or sounded like, I cannot say how well Eastwood portrayed him, but Eastwood simply looked like Eastwood doing a lot of talking for a change.

    The plot has Huston in Britain, talking some backers into having a movie set in Africa actually located in Africa, rather than on unconvincing studio backdrops as had been done in the past. Then Huston is in Africa, having a run-in with a hotel manager and several other people, and worse yet, showing little interest in actually making the movie, but strongly desiring to shoot an elephant instead. As the title implies, the attempt to shoot the elephant winds up going badly.

    So what went wrong? Basically, the story moves slowly, and we don't really understand Huston or his motives. Why fight to have a movie set in an exotic location, and then show little interest in making this movie once there? There seems to be no real point to the story, and we feel dissatisfied in the end.
  • And I'm not talking painting. White Hunter, Black Heart is an admirable failure, a film that tries vainly and unsuccessfully to peer into the complex genius of an artist. I call WHBH admirable because Clint Eastwood could not possibly have believed this movie would be a commercial success, yet he made it anyway. It is an actors' movie, a film designed to allow the director and his crew to experiment with a serious subject-and consequential themes--without worrying about the commercial side of the production.

    The movie is a failure because even with all the hard work from cast and crew, we ultimately don't much care if the movie on screen, a thinly veiled African Queen, gets made. From Eastwood's character on down, there just isn't an emotional bonding that makes the viewer stick to the screen with an adhesive caring. Instead, we get two hours of Clint doing a more humorous than serious John Huston impression.

    I didn't enjoy White Hunter, Black Heart. I didn't hate it either. Instead, I observed it, the way I observe some impressionist paintings. I can see the use of color, the vibrancy of the brush strokes, the composition, but the whole never gels.

    A lot of work with no heart-felt payoff.
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