Wednesday 25 October 2023

The Fabelmans [2022]

 The gold standard for autobiographical cinematic representations of directors’ coming-of-age as cinephiles and their journeys into filmmaking – across films à clef and docu essays/diaries – would include Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, Mészáros’ Diary Trilogy (Diary for My Children, Diary for My Lovers, Diary for My Father and Mother), Mekas’ Lost, Lost, Lost, Varda’s The Beaches of Agnès, etc. Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, as a love letter to the movies, ode to discovering one’s life-long passion, in seeing the world through the camera’s lens, and the myth making capacities of this medium – alongside its quirky humour, self-effacing tone, tender personal anecdotes, and cinema’s ability to display alternative realities – aimed for the afore-mentioned echelon. The brilliant meta reference evoked through a home video that the protagonist makes – fun and bonhomie in the released version vis-à-vis discomfiting forebodings in the director’s cut – was its most representative moment. It was also, however, marked by sentimental approach, largely sanitized exploration of topical particularities – with rare incursions into political contexts – and whimsy intended at easy likeability; and these undid its lofty ambitions. It began with Sammy – Spielberg’s deadpan alter-ego – literally crashing into the world of movies upon seeing Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth with his dad Burt (Paul Dano), a low-key guy and brilliant computer engineer, and mom Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a deeply temperamental woman and trained pianist. The gradual marital unravelling of his parents – accentuated by physical dislocations and Mitzi’s falling for Burt’s friend (Seth Rogen) – provided an engaging parallel track to Sammy’s obsessive immersion into filmmaking. The film’s standout turn belonged to Williams, and comprised of two striking cameos – by Judd Hirsch as Sammy’s eccentric granduncle and David Lynch as John Ford.

Director: Steven Spielberg

Genre: Drama/Family Drama/Biopic/Film a Clef/Coming-of-Age

Language: English

Country: US

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