June 20, 1975 [Jaws]

The first day of summer already--and already I’m uneasy about going down to Miami in August. Jaws has seen to that. My eldest girl took her little cousin to see it--and they’re both happy and freaked out. Jean and I followed them--they stayed for another show--and the movie works like a surefire fun-park mechanism, shocks and tension, lingering evolutionary fears brought up to the surface, broad as the shark’s flanks and giddy in the panicked fun of it--after all our years together, I still grin when Jean’s surprised: She lets out an actual “Eeeek!” like a lady in a cartoon cornered by a mouse.

But then everything calms down for a little bit--the three men in the little boat, reminding me of Ibsen’s dour Enemy of the People: the scientist who tells everyone the water’s no good--Richard Dreyfuss as the punk kid who flips the bird at the Chamber of Commerce of pleasant Amity--willing to redden the beaches a little; and the city cop, Roy Scheider, along for the ride, his stringy frame gripping the rail; and most of all Robert Shaw’s Quint, smiling like the damned, his face raised up to see the past: the Indianapolis sunk, the sharks and their “doll’s eyes rolling over white” and his friend bitten in half, “bobbin’ like a kind of top.”

It is a monologue that asks the swooping camera to stand still, and the big soundtrack to pare it down to a couple of expectant, mournful violins--so that the shark out there can get scarier than ever--and so that we can know what Quint knows: that after we've had our fun the shark will fill his mouth with blood as it pushes him down its throat.


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