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George Lucas came to town last week, giving us an insight into the creation of the Star Wars series, one of the most popular and penetrative moments in cinema; ANDREW L. URBAN reports.

Star Wars is a mythological, psychological movie, not art or a demo of special effects, said its creator, George Lucas. "It’s quite complex with several levels at work, and especially a lot of humanity in the characters, even the robots. It’s really conservative, even old fashioned."

"because of the pool of talented actors and crew available"

Lucas was describing some of the deeper aspects of Star Wars at last week’s screen production conference, his visit coinciding with the announcement that he is shooting two of the three star wars prequels in Australia starting next year. It’s not just because of Fox Studios, he said ("we could shoot it in a converted warehouse like we’ve done before") but because of the pool of talented actors and crew available. He also likes the social atmosphere; he describes Australia as "the least foreign place" he’s ever been outside America.

Remarking that very few people had dealt with these aspects in their response to Star Wars (see left), Lucas said he really made it along the lines of a silent movie. "That’s why so many very young people can connect with it. It’s visual storytelling. It really is Eisensteinian," he said in reference to the great Russian filmmaking pioneer, "using film grammar as music grammar; it uses sound as music. I think the way to learn filmmaking skills is to make silent films. Words can dilute the power of the graphic storytelling process. "

"drew on history, mythology and psychology to develop the major themes"

He drew on history, mythology and psychology to develop the major themes of Star Wars, dealing with the nobler human attributes.

The Empire Strikes Back, he said, was written during the Vietnam war; "it is NOT a metaphor for Hollywood, as some have suggested." He said his writing was influenced by the times; a powerful, technologically advanced society at war with a smaller society.

Lucas says he had stepped aside from directing for a while because he needed time to do other things – including spending time with his family- and to concentrate on other businesses: he has five corporations to run, including the famed Industrail Light and Magic.

"Lucas...'probably' will direct the two Star Wars prequels"

But he "probably" will direct the two Star Wars prequels.

He spoke of his years at film school, at University of Southern California: "I didn’t know anything about filmmaking before. I was interested in art and photography. I transferred to film thinking I’d do photography. There, I learnt things through exposure to films and filmakers – it was very powerful for me. There was a creative competition: watch this, I’ll blow you away. But we’d be very supportive of each other professionally."

Lucas, Saul Zaents and Steven Spielberg (pic), all based in San Fransisco, all came through the film school system and all achieved being independent of Hollywood financially, he said. "You can make films outside the Hollywood system but you still need them for distribution. It’s only if they get involved in the production that things go wrong in Hollywood."

He said the biggest problem is "the corporate culture which means a large middle management group gets into the filmmaking process, who know very little about it. They can only copy other people and they tend to destroy movies. Odd movies, like American Graffiti was or even Star Wars (which was hard to get financed even then) couldn’t be made in the Hollywood system now.

"the better movies aren’t the ones making money"

"Yet some of the films being made now are excellent. In aggregate, Hollywood is making better movies – but the better movies aren’t the ones making money. People, not the filmmakers, decide what they want to see."

Lucas stressed the importance of big movies, like Titanic, to succeed; "it enables Hollywood to take a chance on independent films."

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This is Andrew L. Urban’s review, published on the release of Star Wars: Special Edition, earlier this year.

"This old fashioned fairy story about dangerous, exotic creatures, an evil ‘kingdom’, rollicking buccaneers, a damsel princess in distress and a young hero whose faith carries him to victory, is timeless. The old fashioned elements are never downplayed: just look at the costumes. Other than the stormtroopers and Darth Vader, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker get about in clothes that are ambivalent about the 19th and 20th century. As for Princess Leia and old man Kanobi, as well as some of the stranger inhabitants, their wardrobe seems to have been inspired by some sort of Camelot. These - and things like the old fashioned jazz band in the galaxy’s weirdest bar - are some of the most reassuringly familiar elements in what is otherwise a high-tech setting. And they reverberate with the same recognisable human notions as honour, courage, the love of freedom - and faith. The heroes have a cause to fight for that is greater than their own personal ambitions; their motives are deeply felt, and worth our attentions. Those - among others - are the reasons why Star Wars was and is so popular - and stands the test of time: it’s not an empty exercise in pyrotechnics."


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