Wednesday, 10 July 2013
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (3 Stars)
This was the second film shown at the 2013 Outdoor Film Festival at Brindley Place in Birmingham. I'm old enough to remember all the hype when this film was made in 1981. At the time Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were the two directors whose films made more money than anyone else's. Putting them together in one film was a surefire way to make money. Sentimental stories talk about the two men meeting, making friends over dinner and saying they admired each other's work so much that they wanted to work together. I doubt the stories are true, at least not in this form. The way I see it is that the bosses of the film studios looked at the year's income in 1977 (the year of "Star Wars" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"), then rang Spielberg and Lucas and told them "You two must work together".
Spielberg and Lucas were both directors, but at the time Lucas was the only one with experience as a producer, so it was an obvious decision for George Lucas to be the producer and Steven Spielberg the director of their joint effort. My feelings at the time were mixed. I greatly admired Spielberg's films, but judging by "Star Wars" I didn't like Lucas's style. To be honest, I was rather baffled by the success of "Star Wars" (which was later renamed "Star Wars Episode IV"). To me it seemed to be a blam blam shoot 'em up film, driven by action scenes with a flimsy story stringing them together. Cowboys and Indians in space. Spielberg, on the other hand, made films based on strong stories, with action added only where appropriate. Spielberg made films for the brain, Lucas made films for the gut.
In theory, combining the two financial and artistic powerhouses of 1970's cinema could work. With some trepidation I bought my film ticket. And I was disappointed. To me it seemed like a George Lucas film, I could see very little Spielberg influence in it. I've never read any "behind the scenes" info on the film, but it seems like George Lucas did more than just produce the film, he seems to be the real director. I can't imagine their teamwork being amicable. I have images of the two disagreeing on something, then Spielberg throwing up his arms in frustration and saying, "I really don't care, let's do it your way, I just want to get the film over and done". I stress, this is just my feeling from watching the film, it's not based on anything I've seen or read about it.
Of course, I was in the minority. The film was one of the biggest successes of all time, up to 1981. Not just financially, the film was nominated for nine Oscars, of which it won four. Watching the film again today, I just don't understand it. The plot is like something from a comedy film, and yet it's all played very seriously. In the film Adolf Hitler is sending expeditions to find the Biblical "ark of the covenant", which he thinks will make his armies invincible. This is absolutely ridiculous. Hitler would never have used a Jewish artifact as a means to victory.
Getting to the festival itself, the organisers seem to have learnt something from the mistakes they made yesterday. Maybe they even read my blog. They didn't have more beanbags, but there were helpers handing out deck chairs. They were still using the same loudspeakers, but the volume was louder today. They still have a way to go to put things right. Let's see how tomorrow's film works out.
The photo above shows Mike McAuley of the Birmingham Film Club proudly sitting on a beanbag that he won for himself at the risk of life and limb. Since I respect him as one of the club's organisers I didn't fight him for it.