Reel Talent: First Films By Legendary Directors

Reel Talent: First Films By Legendary Directors
They’re household names now but George Lucas and Robert Zemeckis were once film students making sci-fi and racing films. This two-disc collection gathers a dozen early works by graduates of the University of Southern California’s prestigious film program. And although nothing here screams "genius,” there are glimmers of promise. Lucas’s shorts are experiments in technique rather than straight narratives; he would transplant the desert cinematography of 1:42.08 A Man and His Car to the first Star Wars and expand the bleak atmospherics of Electronic Labyrinth into his first feature, THX-1138. However, it’s Forrest Gump director Zemeckis who shines in this collection. Told with spare dialogue and patient editing, The Lift is an eerie thriller about a possessed, old elevator that terrorises a thin-skinned tenant. A Field of Honor is a dark romp about a Vietnam vet who goes on a trigger-happy rampage upon returning home. Brief interviews with Lucas, Zemeckis and Twilight Zone director Richard Bare threaten to eclipse their work. They are fascinating reminisces about the state of filmmaking in the late ’60s when Zemeckis had never even heard of film schools, with Lucas recalling USC as a collection of hippies. The three filmmakers impart sage advice about filmmaking and ponder the future of film schools, with Zemeckis worrying that it’s no longer a place for aspiring filmmakers to make mistakes and learn. This collection is a great idea but its execution is sloppy. The menus don’t identify who directed what, so fans of Lucas will have to wade through 12 films across two discs before finding Freheit. Also, we are given no background information about the other directors, who they are or why their shorts included. (Fox)