Jun 3, 2015


'You remember the scene. Taking a break from dropping chum into the ocean to lure their rogue shark into the open, Quint, the barrel-chested blowhard, sinks a can of beer and then, fixing Hooper—Dreyfus’s rich-kid oceanographer—with a stare worthy of the Ancient Mariner, crushes it. Hooper, fixing his nemesis with an equally piercing stare, lifts the Styrofoam cup he has in his hand and crushes that. Barrel-chested displays of machismo: 0. Self-deprecating beta-male irony: 1.  That single moment tells you why the “Jaws” anniversary is worth celebrating. The film’s big scare moments may have lost a little of their bite, certainly on the small screen. But still going strong, after all these years, are the film’s fillets of character, often expressed with sight gags: the Styrofoam-cup versus beer-can crushing scene, or the one where the police chief, Brody (Roy Scheider), slowly realises his son is copying his every gesture at the dinner table—his chin rested on his fist, then steepling his fingers, then cradling his face. Both moments came out of the enforced improv sessions Spielberg held with his actors while his mechanical shark wasn’t working. Both moments play out wordlessly, as all the best moments in Spielberg do: the UFO-in-the-rearview mirror gag in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, or E.T.s touching of fingers with Eliot in “E.T. The Extraterrestial”. They reinforce our sense that the director’s real progenitors in “Jaws” was not so much Hitchcock, and still less Herman Melville, as Charlie Chaplin.' — from my piece for Intelligent Life

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