“Gran Torino” and “Scent of a Woman”
– Acting with Determination and Imagination
“Gran Torino” was directed by Clint Eastwood and screened in 2008. Clint Eastwood plays old, disgruntled Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski, who sets out to reform his neighbor, Thao Lor, a Hmong teenager who tried to steal Kowalski’s prize possession: a 1972 Gran Torino.
“Scent of a Woman,” which first screened in 1992, is a remake of the Italian film “Profumo di donna.” The main character is played by Al Pacino, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor, and the film was nominated for Best Director, Best Picture, and other distinctions.
Frank is a retired lieutenant colonel in the US army. He’s blind and impossible to get along with. Young Charlie is at a prep school far from his home and is looking forward to going to college. To help pay for a trip home for Christmas, he agrees to look after Frank over Thanksgiving.
The main characters in both movies are war veterans who are not in good relationships with their families. Actually, their families don’t know how to deal with them because they are difficult to talk to, and very stubborn and strong speakers.
People’s attention usually goes to the main character and, indeed, they are strong characters that catch the eye; well, as I mentioned, Al Pacino won an Academy Award. Both actors were great in their roles.
But what caught my attention were the boys who interacted with the main characters of the old men in the films. Those boys are nothing special, not so smart or strong, not hero types.
For example, the boy in “Gran Torino” is a homebody who is alway gardening, and in his culture, this is a girl’s job.
There’s nothing special about him, so to speak, but he has sincerity, genuineness, and a conscience. And this is what melts the grumpy old guy’s heart, little by little. And the grumpy old man’s conscience starts to appear from within him. The story plays out from there.
For an actor in a main role to stand out, the actor in the sub role must be a key player. In “Gran Torino,” the boy’s role is one of a Bodhisattva: one who sincerely and conscientiously cares for others; one who does not make others feel that they are being judged. A Bodhisattva makes others feel relaxed and naturally (without force) helps them to realize and open up their potential.
I will be like that boy by starting to act like him with the determination and imagination that I am already like him.
If you are interested, please watch these movies. If more people become like the boys who act in the sub roles, we will have Pure Land right here on Earth!