Updated June 2016
After the completion of my American New Wave series, I found myself hungry for more, and with the rather stark delineation of mainstream ’70s American and ’80s American cinema, continuing chronologically seemed a fair idea indeed for it’s ease of access without necessarily plumbing the same self-consciously raw, arty cinema I generally stuck with to define American film during the 1970s. This is an opportunity for me to plum an type of film I have almost entirely avoided thus far for the purposes of this blog: classic genre filmmaking, or pop fare as we call it when we’re feeling particularly feisty. The series will continue, albeit with a generally more slap-dash rule set fitting the parameters of the generally lighter, airier cinema of the ’80s like a glove. Essentially, I’ll go by year, but within each year, I can cover one film in depth, or a few in smaller review format, or any mix in between. Whatever suits my boat, for, after-all, personal satisfaction was de rigueur in the halcyon ’80s, wasn’t it?
As for publication schedule, It’ll be more compact, a sort of Holiday treat to myself where I get to focus on “fun” movies in place of all the doom and gloom I force upon myself cinematically (I’m such a masochist aren’t I?). In other words, I want to keep things coming fast and loose, to give myself a filmic sugar rush, and to have a little fun with it. My estimation will be the series will continue into the very early ’90s (being that the first few years of the ’90s were basically the ’80s culturally and cinematically anyway, before the New American Independent bubble really blew up big time mid decade). And I’d like to have it all done by the New Year, or slightly afterward. So that’s one month of the poppiest pop I can find. Survival, without cavities, is not an option. And do excuse the titles; sometimes I like to have fun with myself, even against myself. The titles are Holiday Present Part B.
Firstly, it must be said before anything else, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is a fairly stupendous lark, a work of cheerful insouciance at minimum, and a sky-high stratosphere-piercing pop machine at best. As a pure action-adventure, it’s an apex of economical storytelling, from-the-hip visual stylization, and gloriously unstabilized anarchy that owes as much to Chuck Jones (of Looney Tunes fame) as John Huston. This is true not only for its wit and physicality (Chuck Jones was a maestro of movement above all), but in how it is a master-class in editing and framing on-screen action (and it climaxes with a wry, none-too-subtle jab at the protagonist that wouldn’t be out of home in either malevolent John Houston molasses or a spring-stepping Chuck Jones firecracker). Almost unthinkably so thirty years on, it is palpably, vigorously indebted to the Midnight Cinema tradition, the so-called reprobate genres epitomized not only by Jones but more live-bodied directors like Fritz Lang. In straying perilously near the B-serial, it unearths a morbidity that stresses how – 21st century bloodlust aside – children’s entertainment was quite a bit more scarlet in the olden days. Populist though it may be, the thing about Raiders is how it turns the disreputable into the divine.