Very few directors in the history of cinema have had a career that could equal the achievements of Steven Spielberg. After making an unprecedented breakthrough with Jaws, Spielberg went on to produce some of the most commercially successful American films which managed to garner a lot of critical acclaim as well.
Jaws became a global phenomenon and is still referred to as the first summer blockbuster which inspired market trends in the future. A masterful interpretation of the thriller genre, Jaws also impressed another pioneer of that same domain – Alfred Hitchcock – who famously praised Spielberg for being able to think outside of the box.
The trajectory of Spielberg’s career only went upwards from there because he continued to churn out modern Hollywood classics such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Throughout his professional journey, Spielberg ventured into different domains – ranging from sci-fi gems like A.I. Artificial Intelligence to war epics including Saving Private Ryan.
Last year, Spielberg proved that he is still at the top of his game by directing a project that has been in the works for a long time – his own adaptation of West Side Story. While the film did not do well at the box office, Spielberg’s musical got a lot of critical attention and ended up nabbing multiple major nominations at the Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.
The American pioneer’s contributions to spreading awareness about the history of cinema have also been noteworthy. In many interviews and lectures, Spielberg has paid tributes to the masters who taught him how to conceptualise cinema. He has often singled out the visionary works of geniuses such as Stanley Kubrick and John Ford.
One of the films that had a huge impact on Spielberg’s sensibilities was a film school essential, directed by the legendary Orson Welles. It is the fabled Citizen Kane, that one American gem that is considered to be mandatory viewing for all film fans who want to understand how the evolution of visual narratives took place.
“Citizen Kane is to me the American style,” Spielberg said, while describing the film’s brilliance. “In its exuberance, in its innovation, in its use of lighting, time forwarding, film editing, makeup, docu-dramatic performance, it was the milestone movie of the last two generations. It’s the most audacious, purely American movie we have.”
Spielberg loved the film so much that he even bid around $160,000 (when adjusting for inflation) for the iconic Rosebud sled. Explaining his decision, the director said: “This to me says that movies of my generation had better be good”. For Spielberg, Citizen Kane is still the gold standard of American filmmaker and the Rosebud sled is a constant reminder to keep pushing forward.