Directed by Steven Spielberg
Cornerhouse, 22 July 2012
What I realised about Jaws this time around is that – like Psycho, a similar offering – it’s in a sense two distinct films.
The first is set on the island, where a shark attack, a threat from outside, puts a small-town community under stress. It’s apparent that this community is not quite as unified as it seems, the mayor placing economic interests above public safety with fatal consequences. When these conflicts are finally resolved, we are at sea and the hunt for the shark begins in earnest.
This second film is pure Howard Hawks territory: you have a mismatched trio working together to bring down a fearsome foe. At the start there’s a mutual disregard, then a grudging respect develops, and finally it transpires that they’d gladly die for each other. All according to formula.
Everything is well done and works well, but it is John Williams’ score that raises a well-crafted film to classic status. It’s exceptional, not only the mesmerising theme but also the way it sometimes subtly echoes Quint’s sea shanty.
Jaws is showing again on Wednesday as part of the Matinee Classics season, further details can be found here.