Play Misty for Me (Eastwood, 1971)
Eastwood’s directorial debut features his take on the crazy female stalker genre – which, to say the least, is a bit different than anything he would direct after. But he does it well. Beautifully filmed on the Pacific coast, Eastwood’s disc jockey womanizing character has his life interrupted and turned upside down by a crazed fan. And though Eastwood struggled a bit with this stalker’s depth of character, Jessica Walter’s performance is great enough to cover that flaw (and Eastwood is able to successfully create several unsettling scenes involving her overstayed presence in his life).
What I found most compelling was the focus on life beyond the stalker. Alongside the crazy happenings in his life, he is also trying to rekindle an old flame. Obviously this helps create tension in the plot, yes, but in this case it also gives us a glimpse into the human side of this man. No scenes are more important than the 15 minutes focused on the two lovers returning to their relationship, followed by a concert with friends. It’s literally just a 15 break with zero connection to or mention of the stalker. It’s sort of puzzling (since you know you haven’t seen the last of her), but refreshing all the same. This is a nice balance of genre staples and poetic realism. 8.5/10