VOTD: The Spielberg Face

If you don’t think 2011 has been a good year for movies, considered the fact that the most celebrated and influential filmmaker of our generation, Steven Spielberg, is releasing not one but two films before the calendar flips. The releases of The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse have not only put Spielberg back in the public spotlight, they’ve once again opened up a discourse about his masterworks of the past four decades.

One of the staples of all those films is popularly called “The Spielberg Face.” It’s described as a look with “eyes open, staring in wordless wonder in a moment where time stands still.” You see a double example of it above from Jurassic Park but it’s literally in every single one of his movies, and often way more than once. A new video essay has been posted dissecting the uses of “The Spielberg Face,” its origins, subversions and much more. It’s a great watch. Check it out after the jump.

This video, which was made by Kevin Lee of Fandor.com was pointed out by Movieline. It’s inspired by this fantastic May 2011 article by our friend Matt Patches who pulled out several instances of the best and most famous Spielberg faces. Lee’s video goes even deeper though. Check it out. [That Fandor link has the full transcript too.]

While Lee’s video is certainly well-made and raises some interesting points, specifically regarding Close Encounters of the Third Kind and AI: Artificial Intelligence, I have a feeling that Spielberg himself would mostly laugh this off. That’s in no way a knock of the work of Patches or Lee, both of whom are obviously well-versed in the Spielberg oeuvre, but having studied film theory for years and turned that into a career of talking to filmmakers, they rarely fess up to being conscious of these things. It’s just part of their daily grind.

Can Spielberg be held responsible for the popularity of this type of shot? Yes. Does he use it to make the audience feel a certain way? Yes. Did he specifically make Close Encounters or A.I. as ways to expand or subvert this technique? No, but the argument can certainly be made.

What are your thoughts on The Spielberg Face?

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