Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Vol. 150: It's the 4th of July, and "it's gonna be one of the best Summer's we've ever had."

"Amity is a summer town. We need summer dollars."

     The cast of characters include the new chief of police, Martin Brody, the outsider from New York City, who is afraid of the water, and who finds himself living on an island with his family doing his best to protect them from the terrors of the outside world. There is the Mayor, Larry Vaughn, played brilliantly by veteran actor Murray Hamilton, as the machine, the politics of ignorance, only looking toward the next re-election. One can substitute their favorite or least favorite politician and you get the picture. Along comes Matt Hooper, played by a  wide-eyed young and feisty bearded Richard Dreyfuss, who represents the changing of the guard and the science of progress with his fancy sonar and compressed tanks of air. Finally there is Quint, whom we never get to know what his full name is, but is played with the intelligence and confidence that only an actor steeped in their craft can portray through years of hard drinking and experience, by the one and only Robert Shaw. He's an Ernest Hemingway, Old Man and the Sea character, who wears his "working class hero crap" on his sweater'd sleeve.  Quint's monologue towards the latter half of the film is right up there with any monologue in film history; and when you learn that Mr. Shaw was very much drunk when he performed it, makes it that much more believable and that much better. This cast of characters is brought together perfectly by a young director, making only his 2nd full length feature film of his career, Steven Spielberg, whom would make his place in history by directing the first ever box-office $100 million in ticket sales the bar setter, until a little film called Star Wars came along a few years later. But early in the film, you could already sense the genius of the director and the future direction that Hollywood would be heading, deep into the sea of summer blockbusters.

     Within the first 20 minutes of the film, a young boy, a dog and a young woman are killed. Is this representative, subconsciously of the death of the American Dream in the early 1970's? Is the main character of the film Richard Nixon, swimming around in the political arena destroying whatever got into his path, but whom was ironically and justifiably inevitably destroyed by his own appetite for power (ie; Watergate, and God knows whatever else he did that wasn't reported in the press). Then there is the scene in the dark of night, where two drunken friends try to catch the magnificent beast with a "holiday roast." You can almost hear the laughter of friends as they empty their supply of Coors Lights on to the dock. Chief Brody, played by Roy Scheider is now, irreversibly and immediately caught up in the situation, emphasized cinematically through the tight close-up rail shot exposing his and the audience's shock at what they've just witnessed off the beach of Amity, when the young boy and his raft are bitten in half in a geyser of blood spraying into the air. However, it's not until the Chief's own son is threatened that the Mayor, the Chief  Brody and the young scientist Matt Hooper, have to turn to Quint, who could be a metaphor for the military industrial complex; and once you go down that route, there is no turning back. You've just signed on to fight the war on terror. It will never end, and with the heat of summer fully upon us here in the Midwest and throughout the mid-Atlantic, you may not need a bigger boat, you just may need a bigger air conditioner.

     So, in honor of the 4th of July, and what has become a holiday tradition in my life, I wanted to take you on cinematic journey back in time. From the perfectly contoured typeset letters of the title to the genius simplicity of the score, the film holds a viewer's suspended disbelief in perpetual awe. Who doesn't go swimming in any body of water, lake, river or even dimly lit swimming pool and not worry about what is lying beneath, out of sight, out of fear of the unknown. Within the first five minutes of the film, you are hooked, like a visual, auditory, and sensory overloaded experience of narcotic abundance, the film holds you in its grasp, its JAWS.