Spielberg on Spielberg
Directed by: Richard Schickel
Dir.: Richard Schickel
Told entirely in his own words during a relaxed, comfortable chat with critic and film historian Richard Schickel, Spielberg on Spielberg continues the Turner Classic Movies practice of pairing well-crafted documentaries with mini-retrospectives, from the recent Brando to Schickel’s 2004 auteur confessional with Martin Scorsese. The result is a brisk, fascinating flight through nearly 40 years of Steven Spielberg’s filmography.
Perhaps inevitably, Spielberg’s memories of Jaws represent a clear highlight, among them how the failings of his mechanical Great White forced him to “suggest the shark without showing the shark” - an approach, he says, that "probably added about $175 million to the box office." Spielberg also wryly reflects on a point-swap proposed by a nervous George Lucas - a piece of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, then in production, in exchange for a percentage of Star Wars - noting that he got the better of the deal. That segues to a candid assessment of the critical drubbing he received for the misguided comedy 1941, an experience that informed his dramatic rebound with the blockbusters Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T.: The Extraterrestrial. In discussing E.T., Spielberg intriguingly explores John Williams’ enormous contributions to his films, noting that the composer “rewrites my movies musically” - and that only his soaring violins could have truly made those alien-rescuing bicycles feel airborne. From there, The Color Purple (“My first grown-up film,” Spielberg says) bridges the gap into the director’s serious mode in Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan - finishing with Spielberg’s recent arc of movies (A.I., Minority Report, War of the Worlds, Munich).
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