A film-centric portrait of the extraordinarily gifted movie director whose decades-long influence on American popular culture is unprecedented
“Everything about me is in my films,” Steven Spielberg has said. Taking this as a key to understanding the hugely successful moviemaker, Molly Haskell explores the full range of Spielberg’s works for the light they shine upon the man himself. Through such powerhouse hits as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Jurassic Park, and Indiana Jones, to lesser-known masterworks like A.I. and Empire of the Sun, to the haunting Schindler’s List, Haskell shows how Spielberg’s uniquely evocative filmmaking and story-telling reveal the many ways in which his life, work, and times are entwined.
Organizing chapters around specific films, the distinguished critic discusses how Spielberg’s childhood in non-Jewish suburbs, his parents’ traumatic divorce, his return to Judaism upon his son’s birth, and other events echo in his work. She offers a brilliant portrait of the extraordinary director—a fearful boy living through his imagination who grew into a man whose openness, generosity of spirit, and creativity have enchanted audiences for more than 40 years.
Noting that Steven Spielberg has said "Everything about me is in my films," legendary movie critic Haskell (Love and Other Infectious Diseases) weaves Spielberg's entire body of work through her captivating narrative, providing a poignant study of him as a person and a filmmaker. She shows how the undercurrents of his youthful life are projected on the screen, such as his untraditional parents and their eventual divorce, his interest in storytelling over sports, and his simultaneous fascination with, and feelings of alienation from, his Jewish background. As Haskell observes, Spielberg's filmmaking allowed him "to play vicariously and imaginatively all the roles denied him and other Jews not just in life but on the Hollywood screen." At the beginning of his career, his movies (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) are filled with wonder and magic, but eventually they evolve into more socially conscious stories (The Color Purple, Schindler's List) that often coincide with his personal experiences or with world events. In Haskell's telling, he "grew up" alongside his films, letting his feelings and anxieties play out on the screen while achieving global fame and respect as "the world's most successful movie entertainer ever." Haskell's biography, issued as part of Yale University Press's Jewish Lives series, reveals how a moviemaking genius's personal life shaped his craft and, in the process, reshaped popular culture.