There are several reasons to celebrate the Irish Film Institute’s season of selected works by Steven Spielberg, programmed to coincide with the release of War Horse.
Steven Spielberg on the set of War Horse
First and foremost there are the films themselves, back on a big screen where they truly belong: the IFI season takes in a quartet of his most celebrated works — Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan — as well as a lesser-seen Spielberg that serves as a perfect companion piece to War Horse, his 1987 adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s WWII memoir Empire of the Sun.
Secondly, any opportunity to invite renowned author and academic Neil Sinyard to Dublin is a welcome one. Neil will give a talk at the IFI this Saturday at 3.10p.m., discussing Spielberg’s career to date with a particular emphasis on the titles screening in this season. His illustrated talk on Woody Allen was a highlight of last year’s IFI events, and Neil’s 1987 tome The Films of Steven Spielberg remains a seminal work, one we can only hope he plans to someday update. We’ll be cornering him on that one.
Despite continued commercial success, Spielberg’s work has generated considerable derision over the last four decades. Critics in particular continue to take issue with his endeavors in ‘serious’ filmmaking and are already sharpening their knives in anticipation of next year’s biopic of Abraham Lincoln, currently filming with Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role. It often appears that he’s damned for his ambitions to flex his artistic muscles and doomed to disappoint admirers of his iconic ’70s and ’80s classics, when eagerly anticipated returns to popcorn moviemaking like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull fall flat.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
At the same time, no other filmmaker casts as tall a shadow over modern cinema: Spielberg didn’t just create a body of work, he crafted a language — one winningly channeled by J.J. Abrams in his loving homage Super 8. As mogul and super-producer, he’s transformed the cinema beyond recognition, while retaining a boyish enthusiasm for a medium he still adores. When firing on all cylinders, and fully engaged by his source material, few filmmakers can conjure sheer cinematic magic like Spielberg still can. Longtime admirers revelled in his recent animated debut, Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, an unfairly maligned romp which culminated in an extraordinary — and gleefully extended — chase sequence that proved beyond question that he’s still got game.
Empire of the Sun
This iconic filmography still contains some unheralded gems, which is why we strongly recommend that you avail of the rare opportunity to catch 1987’s Empire of the Sun, presented at the IFI in glorious large-format 70mm. Featuring a stunning performance from a young Christian Bale — no other filmmaker directs children like Spielberg — this tale of a young boy’s coming of age in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp is a truly extraordinary and grown-up work, and to this day a sorely underappreciated one. Arguably, it’s Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece.
For further details on the Steven Spielberg season, click HERE.
To celebrate the opening of War Horse at the IFI from Fri Jan 13th, we are delighted to offer a copy of the original novel on which the film is based to 5 lucky people! Simply vote for your favourite Spielberg movie in our Facebook poll before 11am on 13th Jan to be in with a chance of winning. Winners will be chosen at random after the poll closes. Courtesy of The Walt Disney Company, Ireland.