Friday, 5 August 2016
Jaws (5 Stars)
Before I sat down to write this review I checked my alphabetical list of posts to see what I wrote the last time I watched "Jaws". I was totally shocked to discover that it wasn't listed, meaning I haven't watched it for at least six years. That's hard to believe. It was one of the first films I bought on DVD. I'm sure I watched it several times, either alone or with my wife. My second wife, Nicola, loved films with sharks and crocodiles. Her favourite film was "Lake Placid", and "Jaws" wasn't far behind. There's probably a psychological reason for her fascination with giant sea creatures.
Made in 1975, this was Steven Spielberg's second film as director (or third, if you include "Duel"), and it was the film that made him famous. When students study film making they can examine any film directed by Steven Spielberg to see how it's done. The other way round, if there's a list of things needed to make a good film I'm sure that Spielberg ticks all the boxes when making a film. The mixture of suspense, action and character development is always perfect.
The shark itself is hardly seen in the film. This is partly in order to increase the suspense by keeping the enemy creature anonymous, attacking from nowhere, but it's also because of the technical limitations of the time. Computer imagery wasn't available, so a mechanical shark had to be built. If it had been shown in lengthy scenes it would have looked artificial, so the viewer only gets brief glimpses.
For me what makes the film great is the perfect blend of the three characters who team up to hunt the shark in the second half of the film. There's the veteran shark hunter who knows it all from experience. There's the young shark expert who knows everything from books. And there's the experienced police officer who hates water. They start off despising one another for their lack of experience in their respective fields, but as the hunt develops they learn how to work together. A bond of friendship and respect develops.
However often I watched my "Jaws" DVD I shan't watch it any more. I've bought the remastered Blu-ray release. It's amazing, utterly amazing. How can such an old film look so good? On the Blu-ray there's a featurette about the restoration of the film. Even with high end computer hardware and software available months of work were necessary. Sometimes three hours of work were needed to restore a single frame, only 1/24th of a second. What they have achieved is phenomenal. I don't even know who "they" are. Are they artists, film editors, computer graphics artists or something else. Whatever their job description is, "they" are wonderful. In an interview Steven Spielberg says that the film included on the Blu-ray is even more beautiful than what he created 40 years ago.
One of my current problems is that since moving to Germany I don't have a computer with a Blu-ray drive. That means that I can't add relevant screenshots to this post. I had a similar problem when I reviewed "It follows", for which I wanted to add snapshots of the sketches from the film's storyboard. I'll have to make up for this by adding sufficient screenshots in my next reviews. I'm sure I shan't wait more than six years for next time.