Friday, June 06, 2014

Raiders of the Lost Ark

4: my favorite number. Coincidence? I think not.

**NOTE: there are plot spoilers, but I am unapologetic. This movie is 33 years old!

This week I had the incredible pleasure of seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark on the big screen again, for the first time since 1981. Of course, I've viewed it multiple times since on TV and with rentals, but it had been a really, really long time since I'd seen it, and thus I watched it with very fresh eyes.

When my Dad took us to see this movie in 1981, I thought based on the title that it was going to be a movie about football. I can still recall my excitement when it dawned on me that it was a movie about archeology. I purchased the novelization and am kicking myself I don't have it today. I pored over that book like nobody's business. In the scene in the movie when Indy draws the sunbeam coming through the headpiece of the staff of Ra, and his chalk pulls so decisively on the flimsy portable chalkboard, I felt a visceral memory: that sound.

This movie holds up.

It's not dated. It feels like something wonderful the studios released last week.

I'm in awe of the storytelling. It's so well-plotted. For instance, the very first thing we learn about Marion Ravenwood is that she can drink large men under the table. That comes into play later when she tries to use that skill to extract herself from Belloq. (It's always bothered me that she doesn't wait until he's completely nodded out; he could so easily raise an alarm even as drunk as he is--but then Toht shows up so it's all moot anyway.) We learn right away that Indy doesn't like snakes...and so of course his climactic moment from which escape seems absolutely impossible also involves snakes. They are the hot fudge on the trouble sundae. We learn in an offhand reference that Indy and Marion like to eat dates. The dates later cause a mild panic in us, as we watch Indy carry a poisoned one around, thinking aloud as he delays eating it.

I wanted to be Marion Ravenwood. Perhaps this is why I'm so fond of Ravenswood wine. :) I could go on at length about Marion and how she shaped my ideas of what a strong woman is, but that's a post for another day.

I'd like to talk briefly about what it's like as a writer to watch a story on the big screen and try to dissect it on the fly for why/how the plot works. This movie has a wonderful ongoing motif: briefly having something and losing it. Besides the obvious triad of Belloq consistently grabbing things Indiana has procured at great trouble and danger to himself, there's the man at the very beginning, about to land a big fish by the way his line is bending ... but he must throw the entire reel into the river to start up the plane for Indiana. There's the fact that Toht temporarily has the headpiece, and that his hand bears its emblem albeit inadequately (I love that detail the most, I think, of any plot device in the movie. How brilliant is that??!! "And then deduct one for Allah"....oh my God: organic, credible, and game-changing.) I watched the movie most definitely as someone enjoying being entertained, but I also mentally kept track of how the scenes keep fortifying the story, each one moving the plot forward in demonstrable ways. There's nothing wasted in this movie. (well, maybe some of the kissing--but that added immeasurably to my enjoyment!) Then there's the idea that Indy and Marion once had each other.

I could go on and on for a long time, but wanted to keep this short. I so much appreciate this movie, and I thank Cinemark for including it in their summer classic movies queue.

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