raiders of the lost ark

Favourite Films on Friday: #21, Raiders of The Lost Ark

You know Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s full of those famous cinematic moments. The bit where Peter Griffin fights a giant chicken as a the propeller of a biplane swings lethally round. The bit where Bart Simpsons oh-so-carefully grabs the money jar, then flees a rolling Homer boulder. Where Bart/Puss-in-Boots/JD from Scrubs just about grabs his hat in time as the door comes down. And who could forget that famous last shot, of the endless warehouse – a lot like that other one full of hula hoops, or that older one full of Charles Kane’s stuff – where Paul gave Steven Spielberg pointers about making a film about an alien? You know, all those classic moments. …It’s an understatement to say Raiders has settled into the vocabulary of pop culture. It’s practically a part of our collective unconscious now. Most people could explain the film without having seen a single frame. It’s the most natural fate, perhaps, for a film which eats up as much film history as Raiders does. The opening moment melts from a vintage Paramount logo to a mountainous backdrop. It steals itsshots wholesale. Indy himself is an amalgam of a thousand pulp heroes, gruff, sexy, hard-edged . Like Star Wars, the film is a product of Lucas’ fascination with old-school pulp. And like those films, its brilliance seems to be at least half by accident (Ford was a reluctant bit of casting, some of its best moments and lines weren’t in the script, which starred one ‘Indiana Smith’). But all that trivia, all that marginal stuff, the shadow of the legacy it left and the legacy it tipped a fedora to… it doesn’t matter when you’re watching Raiders. The film itself is more than that: it’s elegant, well-paced, thrilling, knowing but never self-conscious, not afraid to be a little silly, pretty just often enough and more commonly handsome. Just watching it cuts through all that effortlessly, like an overly elaborate sword display brought to an end by the punchline of a single gunshot. You know, that classic moment.