In recent decades, many have been talking about how it was Steven Spielberg who invented the summer blockbuster phenomenon in the mid-1970s with his Jaws, and that’s when cinema as thoughtful audiences loved it, cinema as art, began to give way to stupid commercial franchises.
But Spielberg himself remembers well the movies that were made before Jaws – as a spectator and later as a young employee of Universal Studios, where he began his directing career. Spielberg remembers the greats and now, having just celebrated his 76th birthday, having earned all the money in the world, having received two Oscars for directing and proving everything he wanted, he returned to that “pre-maxillary”, “human” movie that he himself watched as a child . We can say that Spielberg shot his Amarcord. Spectators have always known that Spielberg the producer and Spielberg the showman who launched dinosaurs and the man-eating shark on the screens always had an author with a unique style, a little sentimental, but therefore even more captivatingly human.
Spielberg often spoke about his childhood, about how he began to shoot everything around on camera as a child. As shown in Fabelmans (at the US box office from November 23, in Russia the film can be viewed online from pirates), the move of his parents from the calm provincial Arizona to the sunny film capital of California, oddly enough, made him the same outcast geek who saw movie escape from reality. In a California school, an intelligent Jew ran into popular anti-Semitic blonds who called him a Jew (he took revenge on them like a real director, with his work). This image of the introverted loner, who eventually became the king of Hollywood, the most successful director and producer in history, the author of Indiana Jones, ET and Jurassic Park, later became the archetypal for future geek geniuses of the new era, from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg.
But even people who have read Spielberg’s childhood story more than once will learn a lot from Fabelmans. The director did not shoot his most personal film while his mother, Lee Adler, was alive, for the sake of her family (Spielberg has three more sisters, as in the film), who buried her career as a pianist. Adler died five years ago at the age of 97, having untied her son’s hands – now he was able to express what he was afraid to upset her with five years ago. The scenes in which the teenager Sam (as Spielberg called his character) on the footage sees how Mitzi’s mother (as always gorgeous Michelle Williams) falls in love with his father’s best friend Benny (Seth Rogen) in front of him are the most heartbreaking in the film. But at the same time, recalling his childhood, Spielberg shows how important it is to have exactly the kind of family that he had. Father Bert (Paul Dano), an engineer who worked for General Electric with IBM back in the 1950s – long before “computers became fashionable”, was a real reliable support that provided for the family, and the mother, who gravitated towards the bohemian life, sacrificially supported her son’s cravings to art. If you can draw any conclusions from the Fabelmans about Spielberg and, in general, any person who has achieved success, then this is it – you are the result of all the best that your parents have.
Spielberg has always been sentimental – another thing is that it was a slightly mechanical opportunistic sentimentality to ensure box office receipts – remember the teary “ET”, one of his main blockbusters. In Fabelmans, something else is surprising – that in Spielberg all these decades a comedic talent has been smoldering. The scenes where high school student Monica calls Sam home to “pray” look like they were filmed by Woody Allen in his heyday. In general, over the past decades, two famous Jews from the cinema – Spielberg and Allen – personified two American extremes, two American coasts – shamelessly commercial California and snobbish intellectual New York. Spielberg has now proven that he could be Woody Allen if he wanted to, but the other way around is, of course, unimaginable.
There are directors who, after 70, begin to fail and lose relevance. Last year’s remake of Spielberg’s West Side Story seemed symptomatic of this departure from modernity. Although the film was technically well-made, it was neither good nor bad – nothing. But with Fabelmans, Spielberg, to use the metaphor of a train from his childhood, whose derailment he filmed over and over again with such fanaticism, as if he had switched tracks, turned to his own past to make a movie out of it, and the result looks like a new one. restarting an already brilliant career.
Although the Fabelmans are almost two and a half hours long, there is a feeling that in the final scene, where Sam (Gabriel LaBelle) meets his idol John Ford (he was very funny and unexpectedly played by David Lynch after he was persuaded by a mutual girlfriend with Spielberg Laura Dern), everything is just beginning and I want to know what’s next. For example, how Spielberg would now look from a distance of decades at his relationship with his mentor, the all-powerful agent Lew Wasserman, or how he would tell the well-known story of how movie star Joan Crawford, who was old enough for his grandmother, tried to seduce him. Spielberg did the almost impossible here too – he made a film about himself, and suddenly it turned out that this film needed a sequel no less than Indiana Jones or Jurassic Park. This is because making successful films is not enough – it is important to live a rich and interesting life at the same time. Spielberg the man has such a biography that Spielberg the director is not ashamed to film it.
Photo: Universal Pictures