Cinema: Slam! Bang! A Movie Movie

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Much of this special quality can be traced to the quiet linkages, never blatant or campy, that Lucas' movies make with everyone's shared movie past. These linkages are affectionate and gracious acknowledgments that after almost 100 years movies have built up an honorable set of visual traditions and character conventions. Such references can be as broad as the heroine's manner, as subtle as a glimpse of exaggerated shadows on the wall during a fight scene, or the animated map tracing Indiana Jones' progress from continent to continent as he pursues his grail-ark. Says Harrison Ford, 38, Star Wars' Han Solo, who plays Indiana:

"Raiders is really about movies. It is intricately designed as a real tribute to the craft." Spielberg agrees, noting that the film's opening image, that of Paramount's famous mountain logo dissolving into a perfectly matched real mountain, "is the first hint that you're in for a trip."

But these historical references are not the only bows to tradition in Raiders. The simple craftsmanship evident throughout, the attention to detail, which, as the special-effects people like to say, "sells the shot," puts the viewer in mind of an almost vanished habit of meticulous moviemaking. Two examples: when Indiana makes his escape from a sacred cave, a tribe of outraged Indians in hot pursuit, puffs of dust are shaken loose from his clothes with each pounding stride; later, when Marion loses a shoe as she is pushed into the snakepit, the camera cuts to a shot of an asp slithering through the open toe, as economical a suggestion of terror as anyone has ever made.

Movies can be made without such things.

But when they are present, they make the difference between the merely good and the truly memorable.

Indeed, the whole Lucas emphasis on special effects, on loading his films with optical tricks that can be created only in movies, has a transforming effect on his work. It opens the audience's mind ѿagain with great subtlety—to the connections between a seemingly simple tale of adventure and the richer realm of myth. It is Homer's trick, the trick of all the saga spinners and tale bearers down through the ages. And like them, Lucas leaves his listeners free to choose the level on which they will appreciate his work. When, at the end of Raiders, the Nazis pry open the ark and let loose the defender demons it contains, the effect is so breathtaking that one almost forgets that this is the final horrific conflict between the forces of light and darkness.

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