Two free-spirited vagabonds (Richard Levin and Pamela McMyler) unexpectedly meet on a deserted road and decide to unite forces to hitch a ride to the California coast. The long road trip is filled with funny adventures and surprising revelations.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Amblin’ was legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s letter of presentation to Hollywood. While the 26-minute short doesn’t look like much today, based on the strength of the movie, Universal Pictures executives offered the young college student a standard seven-year contract (Spielberg, of course, accepted the offer and quit college).
Overloaded with contagious energy and youthful joy, Amblin’ is a bit self-indulgent, but one has to take into consideration Spielberg’s age and inexperience. It’s exactly what it looks like: a movie made by a film student desperate for attention — I could immediately see why Universal decided to take a chance on this college kid.
Amblin’ is essentially a Valentine to the hippie era and as such it is dated in a charming way. The movie has no dialogue, which makes it look self-consciously hip and a little pretentious. I don’t know if this is just a coincidence, but the film’s soundtrack and schizophrenic editing reminded me of Mike Nichols’s The Graduate.
Amblin’ contains all Spielberg’s cinematic trademarks. The long and uninterrupted takes, the over-the-shoulder shots, predilection for reaction shots, the emotional manipulation, etc., all the things that we love (or hate) about the director are here on full display. Dozens of films and endless accolades later, Spielberg hasn’t changed one bit as a filmmaker. Is this a good thing or is this a bad thing? It may depend on whom you ask.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
It’s a little upsetting to know that this film is not readily available on home video. Perhaps Spielberg himself is to blame for the movie’s unavailability. “I can’t look at it now… Amblin’ is the slick by-product of a kid immersed up to his nose in film,” the director said during an interview (Steven Spielberg: A Biography, by Joseph McBride). Personally, I think that Amblin’ is a sweet little film and I recommended it to fans of the director, or people who are just curious to see where the name of Spielberg’s film company came from. YouTube has a (substandard) copy. Color, 26 minutes, Not Rated.