Here is one of those frankly unexpected treats that feel unreal even while you’re sitting in the dark watching the film being projected on the silver screen- Jaws returning to the cinema (a limited release to tie-in with a remaster/Blu-ray release in a few month time). Well, even though I’ve seen the film many times, and have the Blu-ray steelbook on preorder, how could I possibly resist the opportunity to see this film back on the big screen? Especially as its one of my favourite films and the scariest experience I ever had in a cinema as a kid back in 1975.
(Which is always something of a mystery for me- I was 9 when I saw Jaws back in 1975; my Aunt took me on a summer Saturday afternoon. I’d been reading the Peter Benchley book and the film was a huge summer event, the first of the summer blockbuster’s that became a routine trend for movies afterwards. Everyone was talking about Jaws; the iconic poster was everywhere, on tee-shirts, merchandise etc; the book was a bestseller. But how the hell did I get in? Yesterday when I saw it again the film had a 12A certificate- what the hell was it back in 1975? My Aunt must have snucked me in somehow, bless her- I can’t imagine the certificate being any lighter back in the day. In anycase, no film at the cinema ever grabbed a hold of me like Jaws did back then, it scared me witless and I’ve loved it ever since.)
So anyway, Jaws back on the big screen. What a dreamlike, pinch-me-this-can’t-be-real kind of experience. A haunting flashback to the cinema experience of 1975. Spielberg’s best movie? Probably. While he no doubt progressed technically and some would therefore be able to point at more ‘accomplished’ movies, I do think there is a boldness to Jaws, a sense of desperation born of the problems making the film and it being his first ‘proper’ big movie, and all the pressures that would involve. There’s a passion here derived from all the hard work by cast and crew. It has a gorgeous score by John Williams before such Williams scores became a typical Spielberg staple- here the score is fresh, unique, without those Spielbergisms that would infect later scores. The film has a sublime, magnificent cast that effortlessly bring the superb script to life (such effortless, memorable dialogue- “We need a bigger boat”!). Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, overweight, balding, greying, unlikely stars in these times but back then heroes were more human, characters more down to earth, less iconic. In particular, love the 70s vibe to it. The mature cast (nowadays they would be so much younger and so much more beautiful/perfect), the pace (nowadays it would rush by with tight cuts etc), the photography, the fashion and the hairstyles, everything about it screams 1970’s summer. I guess that nostalgic element is what intensifies everything about the film for me. Also, in so many ways it is so innocent in it’s storytelling. There are no $10 million-dollar star actors here, no huge egos, and Spielberg was just another fresh young director when making it, hardly the legend he would become. There is a sense the cast and crew were just trying to tell a story, make a good movie, before the days when such films would be all about making a blockbuster moneymaker. Maybe its just childhood nostalgia talking, but the film seems so innocent somehow.
One more thing- on the big screen, the shark (restrictive as it was) certainly looks impressive; when it is attacking the cage the shots of the mechanical shark striking the cage have sense of mass on the big screen that belies it’s limitations. I think the film loses that on home viewing.
But yeah, great movie. And fantastic to see it on the big screen again. What a great idea by someone at Universal, they should bring back more older summer ‘hits’ like that.