Spielberg (2017)

Directed by Susan Lacy

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Steven Spielberg has been making full length films for almost fifty years now, and Spielberg celebrates the director’s career by touching on all of the high notes.  There isn’t much drama to this documentary, not that there needs to be, and the story tries to explain some of Spielberg’s impulses but mostly just repeats what it seems a lot of people already know.  We hear from Spielberg himself as well as his parents, siblings, collaborators and other directors (Lucas, Coppola, Scorsese, De Palma) alongside whom he rose through the ranks.  If you like Spielberg and his movies, then there’s plenty to love in this documentary.

I have a hard time knowing what to think about this movie because it’s so tied to its subject.  So all of my feelings are aimed more towards Spielberg and his own work than how it’s presented here.  I’m left feeling like I just read through a summary of his career on wikipedia, but that’s also all I really needed.  Like many of his more fantastical films there is a playfulness to this whole affair, almost as if through the inevitable ups and downs he remained quite positive.

Spielberg himself brings up feelings of inadequacy, shame, hatred, etc. that he felt as a young man and how this influenced his work, but as quickly as it’s brought up we move onto his next cinematic success.  In a lot of ways Spielberg feels like the documentary version of 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody, chronicling what we mostly know and just reliving the glory days.

It’s interesting because there’s just so much to cover here.  Spielberg has made so many wide-ranging films, from E.T. Extra-Terrestrial and Jurassic Park to Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.  His films are mostly optimistic and wondrous, seen through the eyes of a child, but others are heavy, dark and violent.

There is plenty of behind the scenes footage showing the director at work on just about every noteworthy film, almost as if there was some awareness that he might some day amount to something.  We even see completed short films from his childhood, shortly before he became a sort of “chosen one,” hired by Sid Sheinberg to become a television director.

There are plenty of amusing, interesting anecdotes and a sort of recipe to all your favorite films.  We see how he directed the children in E.T., how he captured the gritty realism of Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, and how Jurassic Park aligned with the rise of computer visual effects.

It’s quite swell.

Up Next: Drugstore Cowboy (1989), Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town (2017), Hal (2018)

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