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Thursday, May 22, 2008

JAWS (1975)

It’s a kick to find that Steven Spielberg’s first great hit holds up as beautifully on screen as it does in your memory. It’s surprising to see so many of his personal obsessions already appearing (nerds besting macho men, absentee father syndrome, etc.) and a bit alarming to note that the three male leads (out-of-his-field over-achieving WASP, psychotic-obsessive villain, brainy Jewish empirical thinker) are prototypes for the leads in SCHINDLER’S LIST. Hell, you’ll even spot a kid with a visual splash of red used as a marking device. Pop thriller or Holocaust memorial, grist to the Spielberg maw. He wins awards on his deep-dish pics, but he’s at his best when he sticks to letting his immaculate craft add unexpected resonance to pop and genre material. Sad to think how the current overuse of CGI would have played out if JAWS were made today. Just as the old Production Code often forced writers to be twice as clever to work around the restrictions, the lack of easy digital visualizations may have helped a film like JAWS hit its mark with a film craft rarely seen in these days of SuperHero effects-laden bores. (A gaggle of CGI & computer savvy kids were along for the ride and were enthralled from first to last. There’s hope, yet.)

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