Saturday, October 16, 2010

Here's to Swimmin' with Bowlegged Women: Jaws

If all stories were told like this one, every film out there would be a home run, every time.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, released in 1975. Based upon the novel of the same name by Peter Benchley. IMDB says: "When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it." Scary. Real. Absolutely feasible. I was going to refer to the shark as that "rogue Great White," but it seems like I've been using "rogue" way too much lately. Instead, he's a Maverick-y Maverick.

Opening up the film with shark-cam together with musical genius of John Williams has to go down as one of the best film openings in history. Talk about nailing it! The film goes on from there, really, really continuing to nail it all the way through to the end. What really dazzled me this time watching was Quint. From the moment he scratches his nails down that chalkboard to his (gulp) unfortunate end, Quint is amazing. And not another roughneck fisherman, either. The scene where Brody asks about the removed tattoo and Quint recants his experience on the USS Indianapolis was killer. I loved it. I didn't love so much the realization that Kevin Smith used that entire wound-comparison scene as inspiration for Chasing Amy, (as two characters compare the wounds they received from performing oral on past girlfriends) yes, I'm a bit slow to figure this out. . .

Anyway. The shark fact book, the one Brody is looking at when he yells at his kids to get out of the water (open to a page where an illustrated shark takes bites out of a boat)? Nice, nice foreshadowing. I, for one, was quite surprised when the Maverick shark actually started to do this very thing the first time I saw the film, I thought as long as they were on the boat they'd be safe. Yeeeee. I still have a very hard time watching Quint's death, it's extremely disturbing and very realistic (instead of being cinematic). There isn't any tender score or gentle snatch and flee by the shark, it's blood in the mouth/complete unbroken eye contact/there's-nothing-I-can-do-about-this, the-Maverick-shark-is-eating-me DISCOMFORT. (shudder). But well done.

The cinematography in this speaks for itself. Like the enjoyment that comes from reading a writer who truly loves words, you watch a Spielberg film reveling in the fact that Spielberg obviously loves films. The images in his films are consistently breathtaking and amazing. He's not just writing blockbusters here, although his films certainly are those, status-wise; he really is an auteur. I'd love to see his storyboards sometime.

The only tiny criticism I can make is to Williams, the score during their "we're out at sea, starting our battle, sinking three barrels into him" phase needed to be a little more Indiana Jones and a little less Charlie Bucket. It was too happy or something, throw in some minor chords and step up the bass, hmmm?

Other than that? Wonderfully, emotionally, frightfully kick-ass.


Donald said...

This is pretty much the best movie ever made.

Helen said...

It's one of my all-time favourites but so much of it's classic edge was complete luck. The POV camera work obviously due to the broken shark but "We're gonna need a bigger boat" was also an ad-lib by Scheider!