Cinema: Slam! Bang! A Movie Movie

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This does not imply a lack of generosity when it comes to sharing credit or profits. When Empire struck gold, for example, Lucas gave 25% of the windfall to his coworkers. And he is not threatened by talent, as insecure executives are. Says Spielberg, who went substantially over budget on his last three pictures: "Raiders was wonderful because George is in no way intimidated by me. Also, it is hard to spend your friend's money." All the friend intended to spend, in any case, was $20 million — but he insisted that it look like $30 million on the screen. The film was shot under schedule in a London studio and on location in Hawaii, Tunisia and La Rochelle, France. "There was no time for indulging inspiration," says Spielberg. "It was spontaneous combustion, a relay race.

We didn't do 30 or 40 takes — usually only four. It was like silent film — shoot only what you need, no waste. Had I had more time and money, it would have turned out a pretentious movie."

That, emphatically, it is not. It is all zip-zap, biff-bang. Yet so strong is the imagery, so compelling the pace, so sharply defined are the characters, that one leaves the Lost Ark with the feeling that, like the best films of childhood, it will take up permanent residence in memory. Such filmgoing experiences are, of course, what turned Lucas and Spielberg into film makers. The latter speaks particularly of the lasting impression Disney's Fantasia made on him — "life seen through different eyes."

Spielberg has made the kind of movie Walt Disney might have made had he lived into the 1980s, an entrancing combination of pure cinematic movement, good-humored lack of pretense and allusive fantasy. And he has been collaborating with the man who is Disney's logical successor. For with the old master, George Lucas shares certain values — Wasp, smalltown, morally conservative — and certain talents — for technological innovation, cost-conscious super vision of team creative effort and responsible merchandising of motion picture offshoots. Lucas also holds to Disney's vision of a community of creative film makers living and working together in a Utopian atmosphere. The Disney studio never came close to that, but Lucas has already started construction on his communal Lucas Valley compound, north of San Francisco.

The question for Lucas is whether he can sustain his idealism in an envious and highly competitive field, where success is usually measured by the bottom line. For Disney, Utopia turned into creative stasis and the once vaulting fantasies gave way to the commercialized thrills of Disneyland. If Lucas can preserve himself from commercial temptation, he may yet realize his larger ambition, which is to use the profits from his popular movies for more experimental work. "I want to push film further and still get some emotional pull," he says.

In the confused and beleaguered movie industry, this is a tall order. But Lucas is still a very young man. And an endlessly gifted one.

— By Richard Schickel. Rported by Martha Smilgis/Los Angeles

Reported by Martha Smilgis/Los Angeles

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