The Tao of Eastwood

Chapter 2


At that time I needed a mask rather than an actor, and Eastwood had only two facial expressions: one with the hat and one without it.

Sergio Leone | Director

A wheel has spokes,
but it rotates around a hollow center.
A pot is made out of clay or glass,
but you keep things in the space inside.
A house is made of wood or brick,
but you live between the walls.
We work with something,
but we use nothing.

Tao Te Ching | from verse 11

You may see a camel in a passing cloud where someone else sees a boat. The cloud is still a cloud, however. Formless, it can be all forms.

Lau Tzu is telling us that, many times, what is not there is more useful than what is. People have a difficult time grasping this one. It is hard to hold in your mind’s eye the concept of useful emptiness. Consider time, however. Time has no form; you can’t touch it. Until, maybe, you build a clock.

Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns have a certain atmosphere that forces the audience to become aware of what isn’t there.

The space and emptiness become another character in the movie; a silent background character of great presence upon which the Man With No Name can bring about some action.

Whether is the wide open desert, the lonely, isolated village or the big empty graveyard, the void is all too noticeable. Even the long pauses between dialogues, as characters study each other, serve this purpose. The formless backdrops and spacing, like the stoic, independent drifter, hold endless potential.

Without the hat, Eastwood is being and substantial. With it, he is the ghost.

The popularity and joy in watching these great films endures because of Leone’s and Eastwood’s agreement on this, intentional or not.