RogerBW's Blog

Jaws 03 August 2021

1975 thriller, dir. Steven Spielberg, Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw: IMDb / allmovie. You can't close the beaches if only one person has died…

Yup, indeed, a film I had never seen. (Lyz, will you un-shun me now?) There are no real surprises of course; the plot has filtered out into popular culture well enough, and in turn that allowed me to concentrate on the filmic detail.

As someone who's mostly met Spielberg's later work, it's great to see him at his early peak while he still had ideas. Yeah, all right, there's that dolly zoom straight out of Vertigo during the attack on Alex. But apart from that there's a naturalistic style of filming which, for the most part, leaves one ignoring the position of the camera and the composition of the shot in favour of noticing what's happening and who's who. (And one can always tell who is where; the boat, in particular, is a set with very interesting constraints on how one moves about it.)

Pity one can't be as positive about the music of John Williams; it's probably heresy to criticise the motif, and I won't, but particularly in later scenes the grinding gearshifts from "menacing music" to "adventurous music" and back as the tone of the action changes make themselves very obvious.

The class envy of the book is largely downplayed here and centred in Quint; meanwhile the triad, of Brody with Hooper the over-civilised and Quint the under-civilised, is made more interesting. It's Hooper and Quint who get into the scar-showing contest, and Brody who's standing off to the side as they bond. Meanwhile the relationship shown between Ellen and Brody is superb, not the filmic clichés of a couple coming together or coming apart, but simply a solid marriage. "Want to take him home?" "Back to New York?" "No. Home, here." Ellen's asking about New York with full knowledge of what either choice might mean, and she's prepared for either answer; if she weren't, she wouldn't be asking.

Maybe not one of my favourite films ever, and of course I deplore the way it affected people's view of sharks when they mistook fiction for reality, but my word it's a remarkably good film, clichés of male bonding and all.

Once more if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

Tags: film reviews

See also:
Jaws, Peter Benchley

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