restricted access 6. Jaws: Williams’s Neoclassicism Floats Up to the Surface
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104 6 Jaws Williams’s Neo­ clas­ si­ cism Floats Up to the Sur­ face John ­ Williams ­ reached star­ dom in the mid-1970s, a pe­ riod in which Hol­ ly- ­ wood cin­ ema was re­ cov­ er­ ing from the pre­ vi­ ous ­ decade’s de­ ba­ cles. In those years, a new gen­ er­ a­ tion of film­ mak­ ers and screen­ writ­ ers—among them­ George Lucas and Ste­ ven Spiel­ berg—was build­ ing their rep­ u­ ta­ tion, launch­ ing the ­ so-called New Hol­ ly­ wood. It has been ­ claimed that “music, and spe­ cif­i­ cally the or­ ches­ tral ­ scores of John ­ Williams, has be­ come an im­ por­ tant part of the New Hol­ ly­ wood.”1 So, ­ Williams is said to be the New Hol­ ly­ wood com­ poser par ex­ cel­ lence. To fully under­ stand the mean­ ing of this, it is nec­ es­ sary to under­ stand first what is meant by New Hol­ ly­ wood. The New Hol­ ly­ wood Cin­ ema The term “New Hol­ ly­ wood” is some­ what equiv­ ocal. It is often ap­ plied to films that are very dif­ fer­ ent from each other: on the one hand, Bon­ nie and Clyde (Ar­ thur Penn, 1967) and Easy Rider (Den­ nis Hop­ per, 1969); on the other hand, Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977) and Super­ man: The Movie (Rich­ ard Don­ ner, 1978).2 The pe­ riod ­ between ap­ prox­ i­ mately 1967 and 1975, often ­ called “Hol­ ly­ wood Re­ nais­ sance” or “American New Wave” and in­ clud­ ing the first two films, is gen­ er­ ally con­ fused or at least fused with the sub­ se­ quent pe­ riod, in which the Hol­ ly­ wood film in­ dus­ try re­ gained its inter­ na­ tional pre­ dom­ i­ nance. In this book “New Williams’s Neoclassicism Floats Up to the Surface • 105 Hol­ ly­ wood” re­ fers only to this sec­ ond pe­ riod, to in­ di­ cate ­ Hollywood’s re­ or­ ga­ n­ iza­ tion ­ around new dis­ tri­ bu­ tion prac­ tices and hor­ i­ zon­ tal in­ te­ gra­ tion. Film com­ pa­ nies be­ came ­ merely a por­ tion—often of minor im­ por­ tance—of the net­ work of busi­ ness of ­ larger cor­ po­ ra­ tions op­ er­ at­ ing in the multi­ me­ dia mar­ ket, and Hol­ ly­ wood stu­ dios were at this point taken over by multi­ na­ tional en­ ter­ tain­ ment com­ pa­ nies. Al­ though there seems to be a gen­ eral con­ sen­ sus on using the term “New Hol­ ly­ wood” in this sense,3 when it comes to de­ fin­ ing the pe­ riod in terms of aes­ thet­ ics and form, ­ things get more con­ tro­ ver­ sial. Some ­ contrast the New Hol­ ly­ wood style with the clas­ si­ cal one and ­ equate New Hol­ ly­ wood ei­ ther with “post­ clas­ si­ cal”4 or with “post­ mod­ ern cin­ ema.”5 Ac­ cord­ ing to these po­ si­ tions, con­ tem­ po­ rary Hol­ ly­ wood cin­ ema, com­ pared to clas­ si­ cal cin­ ema, has a very dif­ fer­ ent form and style, char­ ac­ ter­ ized by frag­ mented and super­ fi­ cial nar­ ra­ tives, and an em­ phatic style that ­ largely dis­ plays bom­ bas­ tic vis­ ual and sound ef­ fects to in­ duce vis­ ceral sen­ sa­ tions and in­ tense emo­ tions. Ac­ cord­ ing to the post­ clas­ si­ cal theo­ rists, this style is the di­ rect con­ se­ quence of the New ­ Hollywood’s mar­ ket frag­ men­ ta­ tion and the re­ duc­ tion of films to mere com­ mod­ ities to an un­ prec­ e­ dented ex­ tent.6 Ac­ cord­ ing to post­ mod­ ern theo­ rists, style mir­ rors the very frag­ mented and super­ fi­ cial iden­ tity of con­ tem­ po­ rary man and the so­ ci­ ety in which he lives.7 Other schol­ ars argue ­ against this sharp break­ between the clas­ si­ cal pe­ riod and the ­ so-called post­ clas­ si­ cal pe­ riod claim­ ing that re­ gard­ less of mar­ ket frag­ men­ ta­ tion and per­ va­ sive com­ mer­ cial prac­ tices, the form and style in most films are not that dif­ fer­ ent from those of the clas­ si­ cal cin...


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Subject Headings

  • Williams, John, 1932- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Motion picture music -- History and criticism.
  • Jaws (Motion picture).
  • Star wars (Motion picture).
  • Raiders of the lost ark (Motion picture).
  • Boston Pops Orchestra.
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