Spielberg on Spielberg



9-10:30 p.m., Monday, July 9

In this in-depth look at filmmaker Steven Spielberg, documentarian Richard Schickel simply points the camera and questions Spielberg's way and lets him talk. What we get is an American success story that, as we all know, has by now gathered mythic proportions. Spielberg has changed the way American movies are mass marketed and the way they stay rooted in our cultural experience.

In TCM's "Spielberg on Spielberg," we hear little that is new in the way of this director's amazing rise to the top, but to hear him tell it is that much better, that much richer -- as stories go, of course. In the case of Spielberg, who better than a skilled storyteller to tell his own tale? This is an all-too-brief 90 minutes.

Schickel mounts the documentary (or, rather, casual talkfest from Spielberg's end) in chronological order. We've heard most of this before: A young Jewish boy growing up in Arizona feels estranged, marginalized in the waters of his non-Jewish community ("Jaws," anyone?). Then his parents divorce, and the great divide marks his psyche even more permanently: He is lonely in a way that only kids can understand (throw in "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" here). Spielberg is the first to admit that his storytelling is autobiographically informed (well, at least he owns up to it the way a John Ford never did).

Yes, we've heard all this before, but Spielberg is a great kibbitzer; he showers us with details, expression and emphasis that comes straight from the shoulder, straight from the heart. We get the sense that he still has not gotten jaded about moviemaking, even after all these years.

After he began making war movies as a kid (his dad told him World War II stories long ago), he came to visit California, and when he got to the Universal Studios tour, he jumped ship and hid in the men's room until he could visit all the soundstages and get to know the lot. The rest is history and makes a pretty good yarn all by itself.

Spielberg lovingly tells stories about how he made his famous films, including "Jaws," "E.T.," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Jurassic Park" and "Schindler's List." His explanation of that little girl in the red coat "Schindler's List" is touching to say the least as we see his love of symbols, his adoration of history.

This is great stuff to hear because Spielberg is telling it. Out of the mouth of anyone but him, it would be what it realistically is: a camera pointed at a director who cruises over his own life's story. But Schickel astutely stays out of the way and lets Spielberg weave his own tale, using his great storytelling skills, getting across his continuing love of movies.

A Lorac production
Teleplay-director-producer: Richard Schickel
Co-producer: Doug Freeman
Editor: Bryan McKenzie
Music: Casey Cohen/Casey Cohen Music
Cinematographer: Kris Denton
Host: Richard Schickel