Jaws ★★★★★

Steven Spielberg’s first directorial tour de force. Over my lifetime it has always been one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen. But the problem I’ve had is that I saw it so many times in youth that the excitement, the freshness, just got sucked out for me. I had to let it go and not watch it for a long time. After waiting so many years I have finally returned to a big-screen IMAX showing of it. It was a rejoice!

After being enervated by a slate of digitally processed blockbusters the last few years, the instantaneous pleasure of Jaws are the granulated and glistening images. The way the moonlight hits the water in the opening scene. The summer swelter texture of the resort that is Amity Island. The way that Great White swooshes through the waves. The night fog lending mist over the sea. The wearing down of the Orca boat once water starts over-flowing it.

The dialogue, now that I’m really, really listening to it, is simultaneously too clumsy and refreshingly bumbling at times—and that’s good! I’m tired of current movies in how every line feels rehearsed, and delivered with “perfection.” Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and Quint (Robert Shaw) all have their idiosyncrasies, their pauses or deflections, their quirks. That makes them all the more human. Some of the speech is richly complex, too, such as Quint’s USS Indianapolis monologue.

The second-half is where Spielberg’s direction is truly rip-roaring, in the way he moves camera positions around the boat, the way we truly feel the boat rocking against the sea, the way the three men become silhouettes once at dusk. My favorite part of the Great White beast, by the way, are those damn incisor teeth—I noticed the bloodiness on the upper roof of its mouth. I do somehow get giddy over a couple of the bloody deaths, I guess I’m just amazed by those damn teeth.

John Williams’ score is known for those simple keys he uses, but this time, I realized his more complex harmonies while at sea; he really pushes the adrenaline of this tale. Somehow, even the music is visceral.

Yes, as a child I was scared of bathwater after Jaws. In my adult years, I am now merely afraid of three feet of water.

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