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The Master Of Commercial Cinema

There are craftsmen who have added new dimensions to cinema and expanded the power and depth of the celluloid, like Eisenstein, Bergman, Kurosawa, Fellini, Ray and Antonioni. The list is long and everyone is known for their thematic strengths in which they revelled. But not many directors from the 'great ...' list explored out of their stronghold. Kurosawa didn't make a science fiction film and even if he did, it would somehow spiral down to the human element. Hitchcock, in his lengthy span, rarely stepped out of his comfortable 'suspense/thriller' zone.

The interesting feature about the masters of cinema is that not all their movies were appealing to a range of demographics. For example, someone who likes Ozu's 'Tokyo Story' (drama) may find Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' (suspense) boring. I find Ray's Apu trilogy (humanity/drama) to be very enriching but can't appreciate Fellini's 'Satyricon' (surrealism). But here is a master, who has shown extraordinary brilliance in reading the pulse of the audience, and producing films that not only respect the intelligence of the audience but also touching them emotionally. His name is Steven Spielberg.

The two richest persons in Hollywood have influenced movie-goers unbelievably: while Geoge Lucas, who's still basking in the glory of the 'Star Wars' never bothered to entertain the lovers of non-sci-fi, Spielberg astonishingly balances almost all the mainstream genres: thriller (Jaws), science fiction (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), romance (Always), family (E.T), drama (Color Purple), holocaust (Schindler's List), adventure (Hook), period piece (Amistad) and documentary (The Unfinished Journey). He has tried his hand at comedy, but he simply doesn't have it in himself to produce a full-length comedy feature (just like my writing).

It is really a humongous task to appeal to the mass and film critics at the same time, and the film history stands for proof. Ask for the greatest movies ever made, and 75 of the 100 are residing inside art-movie libraries. You'll have to dust them before popping them into your player. I wonder if there are any major working directors who has produced commercial blockbusters in all those genres and at the same time revered by film pundits..... nope. There aren't any. There's only one Spielberg. All of this without a bachelor's degree. It's funny that he sits on the board of the councillors of the Univ of Southern California, School of Cinema, which turned down his application twice when he aspired to graduate in cinema. In 2002, Spielberg honoured Yale University by accepting their honorary doctorate.

He's the greatest visualizer when it comes to mass movies. Our guys like Shankar and Subhash Ghai are his distant students. There is a child-birth scene in 'Amistad' - a crowded ship carrying slaves from Africa. I guess film schools must be showing that to their students as an example of how a director should blend photography, music and pace to let the audience feel the emotions of the characters. In 'Schindler's List' you can pause your player at any instant and you'll find a perfect photograph on your TV. He taught directors all over the world to build awe through his 'Jaws' and 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind', and I've even seen some James Bond movies borrowing his style. The first 28 minutes of 'Saving Private Ryan' will remain unparalleled when it comes to devastating war-scenes. Janusz Kaminski, the great Polish photographer who has been working with him for the past decade and a half should be credited for bringing life to Spielberg's vision.

Spielberg has almost always used John Williams' score. Themes of 'E.T', 'Jaws', 'Jurassic Park' are all on par with 'Godfather', '2001' and the likes. It's quite difficult to gauge how much the music has contributed to the movie as it's quite impossible differentiate the tone of the scene as created by Spielberg and the mood which Williams' score adds to it. Michael Kahn, the editor, is his long time associate. I've rarely felt an abrupt closure of a scene or the screenplay as intrusive. Thanks to Micheal Kahn for his apt pacing.

I want this piece to be a prelude to his upcoming 'War Of The Worlds'. The movie stars the Hollywood heavyweight Tom Cruise. They have previously come together in 'Minority Report'. You'll know that Tom Cruise is a good actor in the hands of good directors if you've seen his 'Magnolia' or 'Born On The 4th Of July'. The screenplay is based on the novel by H.G.Wells, one of the greatest science fiction writers. Spielberg has again marshalled all of his long-time friends and my expectation-fire is burning high... very high.

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