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I’d rather watch George Lucas’ 1966 student film, ‘Freiheit,’ than any of those godawful ‘prequels’
07:17 am


Star Wars
George Lucas
student film

George Lucas has managed to fashion one of the strangest careers in all of cinema. First, he created one of the biggest (if not the biggest) movie franchises of all time. Then, he took the legacy of that phenomenon and perverted it beyond all recognition. And as if contaminating the childhoods of a million nerds wasn’t enough, he became highly litigious, threatening to sue anyone who so much as referenced Star Wars in a fan parody—he even tried to sue lobbyists during the Reagan administration over the nickname of the Strategic Defense Initiative missile program! Yes, it’s fair to say that no one quite hates George Lucas as much as Star Wars fans hate George Lucas. The guy seems like kind of a dick.

But in the spirit of goodwill towards men, I think it’s only fair that we go back to a time when Lucas was an idealistic young film student, making movies to actually emotionally engage people. Freiheit is a short Lucas made in 1966, and it’s certainly not something you’d expect from the man who brought us Jar Jar Binks. In less than three minutes, a young man (played by—get this—Randal Kleiser, the future director of Grease) attempts to dash across the border from East to West Germany. He is shot after a near escape, and he dies with a rabble of narrations on freedom.

It’s a student film in every sense of the word—dramatic and heavy-handed, and arguably overly-literal in its messaging. It’s also really impressive. The action shots show amazing instincts. The pacing builds anticipation. The editing is crisp. Even the blue tint to the film gives a cohesion to the cinematography—what would have been a busy setting is now austere and cool. It’s almost enough to make me forgive him. Almost.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Alec Guinness, a.k.a. Obi-Wan Kenobi, kind of hated ‘Star Wars’
12:05 pm


Star Wars
George Lucas
Alec Guinness

Star Wars may have represented a kick-start for Alec Guinness’ career as well as a wholly unexpected windfall when his share of the gross turned out to be far more lucrative than he had any right to expect. But on the whole, Guinness seemed annoyed by the whole idea of George Lucas’ space opera.

Also, he was kind of terrible at remembering people’s names.

In Alec Guinness: The Authorised Biography,  Piers Paul Read gives readers a glimpse at some correspondence and diaries written by Guinness while Star Wars—later christened Star Wars: A New Hope—was being filmed.

In a letter dated December 22, 1975, Guinness wrote a friend, noting the likelihood of his next movie being “fairy-tale rubbish”:

I have been offered a movie (20th Cent. Fox) which I may accept, if they come up with proper money. London and N. Africa, starting in mid-March. Science fiction—which gives me pause—but it is to be directed by Paul [sic] Lucas who did American Graffiti, which makes me feel I should. Big part. Fairy-tale rubbish but could be interesting perhaps.

A few months later, on March 18, 1976, he’s working on Star Wars but not having a very good time. He also has inordinate difficulty remembering Harrison Ford’s name.

Can’t say I’m enjoying the film. … new rubbish dialogue reaches me every other day on wadges of pink paper—and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable. I just think, thankfully, of the lovely bread, which will help me keep going until next April even if Yahoo collapses in a week. … I must off to studio and work with a dwarf (very sweet—and he has to wash in a bidet) and your fellow countrymen Mark Hamill and Tennyson (that can’t be right) Ford. Ellison (?—No!)—well, a rangy, languid young man who is probably intelligent and amusing. But Oh, God, God, they make me feel ninety—and treat me as if I was 106.—Oh, Harrison Ford—ever heard of him?

Yahoo was a West End production in which Guinness played Jonathan Swift—as it happens, my parents saw that play; my mother always said it was one of the most powerful pieces of acting she had ever seen.

Then there’s this diary entry from April 16, 1976:

Apart from the money, which should get me comfortably through the year, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them all well enough, but it’s not an acting job, the dialogue, which is lamentable, keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young.

In his memoir A Positively Final Appearance, Guinness tells the following story:

A refurbished Star Wars is on somewhere or everywhere. I have no intention of revisiting any galaxy. I shrivel inside each time it is mentioned. Twenty years ago, when the film was first shown, it had a freshness, also a sense of moral good and fun. Then I began to be uneasy at the influence it might be having. The bad penny first dropped in San Francisco when a sweet-faced boy of twelve told me proudly that he had seen Star Wars over a hundred times. His elegant mother nodded with approval. Looking into the boy’s eyes I thought I detected little star-shells of madness beginning to form and I guessed that one day they would explode.

“I would love you to do something for me,” I said.

“Anything! Anything!” the boy said rapturously.

“You won’t like what I’m going to ask you to do,” I said.

“Anything, sir, anything!”

“Well,” I said, “do you think you could promise never to see Star Wars again?”

He burst into tears. His mother drew himself up to an immense height. “What a dreadful thing to say to a child!” she barked, and dragged the poor kid away. Maybe she was right but I just hope the lad, now in his thirties, is not living in a fantasy world of secondhand, childish banalities.

Clearly, Guinness was kind of being a dick here, but I’m pretty much on board with him doing this. I read somewhere that the young boy in question was grateful for Guinness’ “intervention,” but I wasn’t able to verify that.

Allegedly, Guinness was also eager to have the Obi-Wan character killed off to limit his involvement in future Star Wars movies.

Interestingly, Lucas has said nothing but complimentary things about Guinness’ involvement in the project, and, according to the Piers Paul Read biography, Lucas even pushed for the actor to receive 2.25% of the back end rather than the agreed-upon two points. I’m far from Lucas’ biggest fan, but that was a pretty cool thing to do.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Some things cannot be unseen: A hairless George Lucas
08:12 am


George Lucas

I have no idea why someone would take it upon themselves to create a hairless George Lucas minus his specs, but they have.

For some reason I feel compelled to share it with you.

Below, an oldie but goodie: ‘When David Lynch met George Lucas’ as told by David Lynch.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
21-87: How Arthur Lipsett Influenced George Lucas’s Career
Via reddit

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Star Wars / Disney mashup image
07:53 am

Current Events

Star Wars
George Lucas

“A New Hope” by Paolo Rivera.

Via Superpunch

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
21-87: How Arthur Lipsett Influenced George Lucas’s Career

By the time Montreal-born filmmaker Arthur Lipsett made his nine-and-a-half-minute long dystopian short 21-87 in 1963, he was well-aware of the power of abstract collage film. His short from two years earlier, Very Nice, Very Nice was a dizzying flood of black & white images accompanied by bits of audio he’d collected from the trash cans of the National Film Board while he was working there. And wildly enough, it got nominated for a Best Short Subject Oscar in 1962.

But with 21-87, the then-27-year-old Lipsett was not only using moving images, he was also refining his use of sound. And it got the attention of the young USC film student George Lucas, who’d fallen in love with abstract film while going to Canyon Cinema events in the San Francisco Bay area. 21-87’s random and unsettling visions of humans in a mechanistic society accompanied by bits of strangely therapeutic or metaphysical dialogue, freaky old-time music, and weird sound effects, affected Lucas profoundly, according to Steve Silberman in Wired magazine:

’When George saw 21-87, a lightbulb went off,’ says Walter Murch, who created the densely layered soundscapes in [Lucas’s 1967 student short] THX 1138 and collaborated with Lucas on American Graffiti. ‘One of the things we clearly wanted to do in THX-1138 was to make a film where the sound and the pictures were free-floating. Occasionally, they would link up in a literal way, but there would also be long sections where the two of them would wander off, and it would stretch the audience’s mind to try to figure out the connection.’

Famously, Lucas would later use 21-87 as the number Princess Leia’s cell in Star Wars. But although his success allowed him freedom at the NFB, Lipsett’s psychological problems would lead him to commit suicide in 1986, two weeks before he turned 50.

After the jump, compare with Lucas’s equally bewildering short Electronic Labyrinth: THX-1138 4EB!

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Walter Murch’s THX 1138

George Lucas could hardly have been luckier when he secured the talents of the mighty Walter Murch for his first feature film, THX 1138.  Renown for both his sound design and editing chops, Murch’s resume reads as long as it is Coppola-impressive: Godfather I and II, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation.  In that last film in particular, Murch’s wizardry conjures up a sonic landscape that’s as dense and bewildering as Gene Hackman’s San Francisco.

Murch co-authored with Lucas THX 1138, and engineered its complex, way ahead of its time sound design.  You can now hear it for yourself over at Egg City Radio, who’ve assembled a great compilation of THX 1138 audio highlights.  Here’s what AllMovie says about the ‘71 film:

In a 1984-esque white-washed future underground dystopia where sexuality is banned, all humans sport shaved heads and the same shapeless outfits as they go about their work in a mandated state of sedation, listening to exhortations to ?

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment