Spielberg is a moving target, even for those at Amblin Entertainment who work closely with him every day. He seeks to avoid any risk of failure. It all depends on where his confidence — and artistic drive — takes him. Popular on Indiewire. He likes to change his mind.
Wondering where Spielberg is going to land is a Hollywood parlor game. He routinely balances producing and directing, television and movies, mass audience consumer and highbrow fare, and often juggles many stages of production at a time. That said, his running commentary of the characters and action feels disappointingly concrete, literal.
In fact, Awalt comes across as downright leery of interpretation and especially of academics. Make no mistake: I am grateful to Awalt for this piece of context but it was not immediately obvious to me whether this was a sketch or not.
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And it has not been obvious to a number of other Spielberg scholars either. Later, when Mann stops by at the gas station, the attendant informs him that he needs a new radiator hose. Thus, misogynist crackpot caller or made-up character, it hardly seems to matter. But knowing the full context of the program, we can better appreciate how the sketch might function as a commentary laugh track?
The Cinema of Steven Spielberg | Columbia University Press
The expanded version shows Mann phoning his wife from a payphone inside a laundromat, attempting to make peace with her over an incident that occurred at a party the night before. The laundromat, Duel Spielberg While non-Freudians may struggle with the notion that the character of David Mann is motivated by latent misogyny and psychological transference, whereby the truck stands in for the hated wife, it could be argued that the film has misogynistic undercurrents.
His wife, her side of the conversation intercut, dusts the living room in a polka-dot frock and apron that parody s commercials, with two children playing on the floor. There is no need to refer to his home life, since the theme is implicit in the action.
Writers, directors and producers cannot hide their true values and beliefs. Even if these values are unconscious, unexamined, unintended , the texture of language, character and story will reveal them. Awalt later goes after Gordon for his queer reading of David Mann.
As much as one would like Gordon to take a stronger editorial stand, he is simply submitting this idea for our consideration. Friedman, Nigel Morris and Frederick Wasser.
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Despite this, Awalt sees the truck as little more than an object of menace: a threat to be overcome. This way of reading feels reductive: a truck is a truck is a truck. While Mann is a creature of the city, the office, and the boardroom, the driver is tanned, well-muscled, and blocky. Friedman notes the intellectual disrespectability sometimes attached to studying a filmmaker as commercially successful as Steven Spielberg. Fortunately, several thoughtful volumes on the director in the last five years prove the worthiness of Spielberg as an object of study.
Duel, Universal pictures, Spielberg discovered the movies of s Hollywood through television, a vision of the world that sharply contrasted with images offered by the American cinema of his childhood. Wasser argues that filmmakers such as Spielberg and Lucas suffered visual deprivation due to the encroaching medium of television in the s, which reduced the grandeur of classical cinema.
Spielberg subsequently compensated with a visceral approach in his own films that aimed at immersing the viewer in spectacle.
By the s, Spielberg also developed an ideological relationship with his subject matter and by extension his audience, that for Wasser has as much to do with his early success as his interest in visceral filmmaking. Here the author argues that Spielberg papers over the ideological contradictions and ambivalences of his earlier work, effectively setting into motion a critique of American authority while at the same time mitigating that critique with an immersive film style and sympathetic characters. Here the ideological ambivalence of the earlier films is eschewed through characters that, theoretically, any viewer can identify with, and through a perfection of a visceral style which for Wasser relegates any direct political engagement with subject matter to the background 7.
As the author discusses, films such as The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun grant Spielberg a historical frame capable of reaching a more diverse and, in the case of the latter film which was more successful overseas than in the United States , a global audience. This reflects the rather mechanical, deterministic picture of the meaning-making relationship between the auteur and his audience at work throughout the book. For Wasser, when Spielberg turns to the genre of the historical film, the director begins to challenge his audience to think through the meaning of the very way in which his blockbuster style represents history.
At times, of course, the reader may find herself questioning the assumptions that the author occasionally falls into during his discussion of style. But it is not at all clear why a contemporary setting should necessitate a particular kind of style or protect against contrivance. Piece originally published at Film-Philosophy. Buckland, Warren.
The Cinema of Steven Spielberg
London: Continuum. Friedman, Lester D. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
Related The Cinema of Steven Spielberg: Empire of Light (Directors Cuts)
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