The Secret History of Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Secret History of Raiders of the Lost Ark

The first Indiana Jones returns this evening on M6.

In 2016, Indiana Jones celebrated its 35th anniversary. The opportunity to detail in First the creation of this seminal action film of the last three decades. While Raiders of the Ark lost returns at 9:10 p.m. on Channel 6, we can’t resist the urge to dive back into the archives.

Steven Spielberg: his cult interview for Première in 1981

“With this film I learned to just love the things I did instead of worshiping them”tell Steven Spielberg about his experience The Raiders of the Lost Ark. Built against the lousy logistics and inflationary policy of 1941 (his previous film, a crazy comedy which had cost a fortune but brought in not much), the first part of the saga Indiana Jones remains one of the films in which the director put the most of his energy – the shooting, carried out at breakneck speed, was concluded twelve days ahead of schedule – and probably the least of his personal investment – it’s a pure stylistic exercise that belongs almost as much to him as to his producer, George Lucas.

For the first time in his career, Spielberg viewed one of his films not as a question of life or death but by placing himself in the shoes of an artisan capable of controlling his set and his budget – which does not suit him. had never really gotten that far, despite his already acquired status as wonderboy. A low-profile posture, which led to one of the most entertaining works in the history of cinema. If Jaws had in some way “invented” the blockbuster by making a real break in the Hollywood industrial process, The adventurers…, he will establish the great instructions for the genre, on which absolutely all US action films have been based for 35 years. At the rate of approximately one climax per reel, the film exploded the counters of the great spectacle as much as it established a real rhythmic standard, making the entire planet hysterical. It was at the same time a prototype, a production model and a paradigm.

Steven Spielberg’s films ranked from worst to best

To rewatch this film today is to see, without bliss or nostalgia, to what extent Hollywood – Spielberg included – has since failed to establish a new format. Obviously a formidable businessman, George Lucas had made Adventurers… a major economic issue for his company Lucasfilm. He and Spielberg had drawn up absolutely stupendous contracts themselves (1.5 million salary for the first, 4 for the second, as well as a very large percentage of the receipts for each of the two parties) and considered strictly indecent by all the major Hollywood majors, who one by one refuse to affiliate with the project. Only Michael Eisner, then head of Paramount, agreed to comply with these conditions, while including a heavy system of penalties for Lucasfilm in the event of budget overruns, which can obviously explain Spielberg’s maddening efficiency. on set).

It has often been said that Lucas and Spielberg had “killed” New Hollywood by giving power back to the majors rather than to the creators, we see that in reality things are much more complex than that. By so spectacularly seizing power over the major Hollywood studios, the two offered themselves much more than plenty of zeros in their respective bank accounts: the guarantee that they themselves could set the rules of the game.

As Cosmopolitan columnist Liz Smith wrote at the time: “If Hollywood accepts the deal put in place by Lucas and Spielberg, this city will literally implode and after the howls that this will cause, there will be some serious questioning work to be done in the offices of the studio bosses”. Obviously Hollywood did not implode, obviously the majors ended up winning by knockout, but this moment is perhaps the last in the history of Hollywood cinema where a producer/director pair was able to shift the balance of power to this extent. .

History will remember that the matrix of the contemporary blockbuster will have been a film conceived in total independence, developed outside the studio regime and thought of as a love letter to the pop culture of the 40s, 50s, 60s. auteur film, in the plural, put into orbit by its artisanal virtuosity and its extraordinary know-how. A film nourished by almost poetic paradoxes, where retro quietly traces the contours of the future.

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