Seminal Image #102
(Clint Eastwood; 1992)
Clint Eastwood's vision of a morally neutered West where everyone has semi-decent justification for their most heinous, seemingly wanton acts is so profoundly disturbing because it has a greater ring of truth to it than the visions which guided even the darkest benchmark Westerns that preceded it.
I chose this image because to me it's the turning point in the film; the first sign of how far into this bleak territory Eastwood is prepared to take us. This gunfighter played by Richard Harris, the Duke of Death, consumed by his own bravado, frozen in his tracks with abject terror before he's administered one of the most savage beatings in all Cinema. It virtually announces to admirers of the Western that Eastwood is going to address the moral dimensions of this genre with an intent and an authority no one (not even he) had dared attempt since Sam Peckinpah's paranoid/schizophrenic vision blasted away the Western's self-protecting layers in the 1960s.
Eastwood's Westerns had always been Revisionist to one degree or another (hell, most of his non-Western films were revisionist also), but "Unforgiven" is a virtual renovation of the form, and no one is ever going to be able to make a serious Western ever again without perpetually hearing its footsteps just behind them.