Well, that was quite a day, hey?
Saturday, June 20, was the exact 40th anniversary of the release of Jaws, which was unleashed in 400 cinemas across America on that date back in ’75. Which is why we (and I mean I – one man show here, folks) at Celluloid and Whiskey leaped at the chance to screen a restored digital print at The Backlot Perth.
I was, to be frank, a bit trepidatious; the Backlot theatre is beautiful, but it only seats 50, and I didn’t want to charge more than $20 a ticket. The cost of the screening meant that my margins were very narrow. Essentially, I couldn’t afford not to sell out.
So, it was a happy surprise that we sold out in under 24 hours,and I quickly decided to put on a second session. That, too, sold out.
A party’s not a party without booze, so I reached out to Tim Milroy at Gage Roads Brewing Co. He and Jasmyn Woodford put together a tantalising refreshment package (read: a ridiculous amount of beer) for us. We also needed presents, which came courtesy of Robin Pen and company at Diabolik Books and Records, and the team at Dive, Ski and Surf, who were amazingly good sports considering I was screening a movie that to this day still scares people out of the water – and, by extension, away from dive shops.
The cupcakes were homemade by my friend, Lucy Gibson – can’t have a party without cakes. They proved more popular than the beer – we had leftover beer, but the cakes evaporated!
And the movie?
Man, 40 years on, Jaws still just destroys. Watching that great print on the big screen, I was struck by the sheer craft on display. Three movies into his career, Spielberg’s chops were – are – just incredible. He makes it all seem so effortless, while even a quick glance at the film’s production history shows it was anything but.
It moves like a bullet, relentlessly driving towards that great “Smile, you son of a bitch!” climax, yet it still allows room to breathe. It’s packed with simply amazing moments – the Indianapolis speech is justifiably famous, but personally I’d say the dinner table scene, from Brody’s son mimicking him to Hooper and Brody leaving to go open up the tiger shark, is my favourite. The performances are just brilliant – I could watch Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss bounce off each other all day long, and Roy Scheider’s Chief Brody remains one of the great everyman heroes of cinema.
And what’s more – and this is the crux of the matter – it’s still scary. There were a few Jaws virgins in both screenings, but the bulk of the audience had seen the film before, and yet there will still points where everybody jumped. It wasn’t just the film – it was the context: the screen, the sound, the dark, the audience, that ineffable thing that sometimes gets called “the community of emotion.” That’s just the power of cinema, when you get down to it. That’s why cinema is immortal. I don’t care how big your home screen is – you can not beat the theatrical experience.
So, it was a great day and a great film. As a proof of concept exercise, you couldn’t ask for more. Which means that, yes, there will be more screenings of other films down the track. I think we can do one a month, if you guys are up for it.
So, you know, watch this space.