What to Watch
A few years ago whilst living in Kuala Lumpur, I had a bit of time on my hands. Wanting to escape the humidity, I naturally sought out a cool (in-terms of weather) cinema. This is an easy thing to do in Malaysia because it is so cheap! Only RM20 or about $7 to see a movie, so there is no reason not to! The movie I chose to see was the Blake Lively starred shark drama called The Shallows (2016). This is a very simple story, girl meets shark … shark tries to eat girl … girl … well you can guess the rest. Not every movie needs to be Citizen Kane and this certainly isn’t nor does it try to be. The shark is given agency and it is clear that Nancy (Lively) is trespassing on his territory – defined by the rotting carcass of a whale. I think any open water is shark territory unless you can swim like a dolphin. It is fortunate for Nancy that to a certain extent, she can. A very ‘complete’ film to be enjoyed at anytime and not just to escape the heat.
Our companion piece this week is Steven Spielberg’s Duel. Released as a TV movie in 1971, it stars Dennis Weaver. He plays David Mann – a person who does not like confrontation – it’s just not going to be his day! Here the role of the beast is played by a menacing tanker truck. Very much a character in its own right, the truck is cantankerous and careworn having seen too many roads and highways. This is not some lame ‘demon-possessed’ truck, there is clearly a driver though you will never fully see him. He is the truck, the truck is him and they both have had enough! It is unfortunate for David that he will be the one to break their tenuous grip on sanity. And so the duel commences!
Steven Spielberg’s real break through film was of course Jaws which was released four years later. It is interesting to compare its rubbery* realisation of the shark with The Shallows. Things are so much easier with CGI. In Jaws, I found it hard to understand the motivations of the shark. Which makes me question whether Jaws really is a movie about a shark?**
Please feel free to leave comments, even if it is to question my use of the word ‘whilst’. I think it is a conjunction …
*The 3 anamotronic devices used in Jaws to depict the shark were dubbed ‘Bruce’ after … you guessed it, Spielberg’s lawyer! Spielberg was so unhappy with ‘Bruce’ that he wasn’t used much during the movie. Fortunately for Spielberg this added to the suspense of the movie – the less you see of the monster, the more scary it becomes. A cinematic device used to great effect in Ridley Scott’s Alien – a really scary movie.
**In reference to a favourite movie critic – Mark Kermode, who believes Jaws is really about infidelity! Mark and Simon Mayo lead what I think is the premiere movie review podcast which you can find here.