Tuesday, August 2, 2016
The Perpetual Adolescent is about to pontificate again (yawn)
I was in Hollywood a decade or so ago sitting in the office of a film producer. As we were getting along rather famously I asked him somewhat innocently, "How did Steven Spielberg ever get into the film business? All the biographies are rather vague about that."
He grinned and answered. "When in college his girlfriend was the daughter of Lew Wasserman".
Who is Lew Wasserman? The late Mr Wasserman was one of the most powerful agent-turned-moguls in the business and was the head honcho of Universal Studios. Where was Mr Spielberg's first (failed) movie made? At Universal studios.
You fill in the blanks.
Ever since that time, and before, Spielberg has been a man unable to grow up, a man who lives in perpetual adolescence whose movies illustrate this to perfection. "What about 'Jaws?'" ask some devoted fans. "Jaws", made at Universal studios, was a director-proof script that could have been directed equally or better by almost anyone in that town. Same with "Duel", another director-proof script (by Richard Matheson), which in my opinion was poorly directed anyway. It was the superior screenplay that got that movie to stay afloat and nothing else.
The man who made such movies as "ET", "Amistad", "Schindler's List", "1941" and the interminable "Close Encounters" is a man who never reached adulthood, never contemplated eternal truths, never understood people or history, in other words (an old-fashioned one) a "hack" who is content to let his past surprising successes and the PR departments keep propelling him onward even though his failures also keep going onward. His biggest recent success, "Jurassic Park", was a success due to its original idea by author Michael Crichton and its new-fangled special effects, not for its paucity of directorial touches.
But now this pushing 70 eleven-year-old in baseball cap and scruffy beard is going to undertake a serious look at Pope Pius IX in a new production detailing the horrors of a young boy being saved from a fate worse than death: his Baptism into the Catholic Church. Word has it that the boy's becoming Catholic will be depicted as a sort of violation, a horrible stain on the poor child's soul, almost a rape, at the hands of that sinister group of people in Rome headed by the villain, Pius IX. Abe Foxman will no doubt be first in line to see this show.
The general direction in which this looming fiasco is headed can best be illustrated by the actor Mr Spielberg has hired to portray Pius IX.
A subject like this requires delicacy, no matter which side you stand on. Will it receive delicate treatment? A cinematographer friend of mine, the late Douglas Slocombe, who had done pictures with Mr Spielberg, was asked by this writer what it was like working with him. The cinematographer replied ruefully, "Well, he likes to ladle it on rather thick".
So much for delicacy.