Film In the FACT Centre's bid to be the eighth wonder of the world, the late show last night was 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'. I knew there wasn't a new print on release and so it proved as the curtains opened on a late seventies ratings card. 'Raiders' was a certificate A apparently. Considering the age of the thing, the picture quality was extremely good -- better in fact than some brand new films.

It occured to me as I stood in the queue with my free promotional ice cream watching the inevitable scary wierdo who wanted to go in and get a seat before the film before had even finished that I hadn't actually seen the film in ten years -- and that I'd actually forgotten quite a lot about it. I hadn't seen it in fact since I watched it in pieces during my English Literature class when it was used as a way to describe the vaguries of storytelling.

I remembered slices of what Mr. Crighton had described in the opening moments which are utterly stunning. It's quite shocking to discover that we don't see the hero's face until the credits have rolled; until then he is a mystery figure, his silhouette established up front like some white american Zorro.

If ever there was an example of film makers not making them like they used to, this is it. Now, we like our superheroes with a back story, an origin, an ultimate motivation for who they are and what they do. Here we know nothing of Indy's history (although that would come in 'Crusade'). He is an unauthodox archaeologist with a whip and hat and that's all you need to know. Realistically we don't even get the details of his and Marion's breakup (now we would have had five minutes of exposition).

Also, being just about pre-video there are amazingly few notril dusting close ups. There is something going on in almost all of the shots here and the actors are allowed to breath with the frame. If you've got this thing in widescreen, just look at the moment when Indy walks into Marion's bar. For thirty seconds she has a conversation with his shadow. We already know what he looks like, we know who he is, so why cut back to him? In a modern action film, I suspect, that would have been told in a two shot and over the shoulders, flat and functional. Many of the shots we see in here would only appear in an indie picture. Also hand held is used very sparely -- which makes you wonder at how many film you've seen with steadycam shots lately. Bit tired and easy surely?

This is an action film and characterisation is in what the people do and how they speak -- they let the audience and subtext do the work.

Also: Whatever happened to Karen Allen? She was in Starman after this, then nothing until that bit part in the bitty 'A Perfect Storm'. She's utterly gorgeous in that opening bar scene, with the help of some lighting your eyes are just on her. And doesn't Harrison Ford look young? When is Indy 4 going to be set? The Sixties!?! Also at no point can you look into his eyes and see all of the history of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicals. If ever something was bolted on ... but then this is a George Lucas production, so pointless continuity which doesn't fit should be power for the cause. And wasn't John Rhys Davies wasted for three years on 'Sliders'? I think what I drew mostly from the experience is how much a double edged sword home video was. It brought films a mass audience, but it also effected film making to an extent that the art totally fell out of some genres, especially action. And in some cases the simpler pleasures have gone. Steven Spielberg also made 'Minority Report'.

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