ET the Extra-Terrestrial: The Mirror Film of Poltergeist

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ET the Extra-Terrestrial: The Mirror Film of Poltergeist
Amblin

Steven Spielberg’s cult film returns to the Croisette. Did you know that his story was originally drawn from the same scenario as that of Poltergeist, whose filmmaker entrusted the realization to Tobe Hooper?

“Spielberg, ET and Cannes. These three names still resonate today for the world and festival-goers with the same enthusiasm and tenderness as in 1982. The work of Steven Spielberg continues to enchant generations. Closing film of the 35and edition of the Cannes Film Festival, ET the Extra-Terrestrial was screened on May 26, 1982 and will return on the same day in 2022. It was the last film to be screened on the screen of the former Palais des Festivals, making it made a special film for its author and for Cannes. Let’s celebrate together 40 years after this mythical anniversary and this common history, at the Cinéma de la Plage!”

It is with these words that the organizers of the 75th Cannes Film Festival announce the programming ofAND the extra-terrestrial on Macé beach, this Thursday evening, from 9.30 p.m. A classic to see and see again, which will therefore celebrate its 40th anniversary on the Croisette. Happy birthday, ET!

Cannes 2022: the pretty program of the Cinéma de la Plage

Steven Spielberg is a really twisted guy. Paradoxically only those who really love him seem to know; the others prefer to believe that he is a nice naive obsessed with aliens, burgers and dollars, and in whom one reads like an open book. June 4, 1982 hits US screens Poltergeist, a signed haunted house movie Tobe Hooper. It is the first production stamped Spielberg and the project is entirely sold under the name of “wonderboy” (who also wrote the script). Behind the scenes, it is even rumored that the author of Chainsaw Massacre would only be a friendly figurehead, and that the only boss on the set was none other than the director of Sea teeth. From its first weekend of exploitation the film is already a hit. Seven days later, he is snatched the box office lead by the other “new Spielberg” from the summer of 82, in this case AND the extra-terrestrial, which can be seen as both its more perfect twin and its most radical antidote. In barely a week, the bearded man with a cap therefore offered himself two more boxes on his CV, but above all revealed to the most attentive that he was a much more devious case than he had seemed until then. .

At the origin of the two films, there is one and the same script which will never be shot. Night Skieswritten by John Sayleswas imagined by Spielberg as a slightly B and very aggressive sequel to Dating of the Third Kind (1977). We must have seen a brave little family of “rednecks” being attacked on their farm by a gang of excited aliens. Designed after its screenwriter as a variation on the theme of straw dogs and of On the trail of the Mohawks, Night Skies additionally featured a subplot in which the youngest and shyest of the aliens befriended one of the family brats. It is obviously this part of the script that will give rise to AND Spielberg will then be content to replace the aliens with poltergeists to imagine Poltergeist. Above all, he will move the framework of the two films inside suburban suburbs, very close to that in which he himself had grown up, to consider this diptych from a clearly autobiographical angle.

Steven Spielberg explains why he cut Harrison Ford in ET

According to the rare testimonies of the Spielberg sisters, their big brother was as much a nice autistic dreamer as a real little bastard, always quick to terrorize them with jokes in very bad taste. As if it were impossible for him to express this bipolarity through a single and same artistic gesture, Spielberg will finally choose to compartmentalize his two facets there; taking great care to sign his name on the work of sweet dreamer, and to hire a straw man to pass on the paternity of his rascal film to him. However, this will not prevent him from doing everything so that the bridges and the dialogues operated between Poltergeist and AND be as obvious as possible: extremely close release dates, similar concepts (a family middle-class confronts a paranormal event), mirror characters (the blondes Heather O’Rourke and Drew Barrymore), and above all the elaboration of a very particular and eminently contemporary imagery, in which the “lens flares” such as BMX bikes, Matisse blue, the permanent bustle of pop fetishes and a categorical refusal of kaboom pyrotechnics. Even before his production company was even baptized, Spielberg was inventing with these two films what we now call “the Amblin aesthetic”.

Obviously the completely extraordinary triumph ofAND confirmed its author in the idea that the public would always prefer him as Mr Spielby than as Doctor Steven, but the very real success of Poltergeist will reassure him in the idea that he could also show his fangs without suffering massive rejection. What will push him to fuck all the counters in the red from his next film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doomblockbuster-trauma filled with craspecs and lurching details creepy. 40 years later, hard not to watch AND without immediately wanting to follow up on Poltergeist (the reverse also works very well), so much the two films seem to be inextricably linked, and provide better information than any other on what really agitates Spielberg’s cinema: a forever irreconcilable taste for sad candor and sneering nihilism, a terrible torn between humanism and misanthropy, wonder and disgust, sun and darkness. He will have made this pain impossible to appease the subject of his filmo, while pretending to pass for the most normal guy there is. Steven Spielberg is definitely twisted. That’s why it’s so popular.

Francois Grelet

Night Skies: This is what ET, Spielberg’s extraterrestrial could have looked like

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