George Lucas helmed “Star Wars,” but it was Irvin Kershner who took the directorial reins for “The Empire Strikes Back,” the film that would become one of the pillars of any bargument over how the second installments of trilogies are inevitably the strongest of the three. Kershner passed away today at the age of 87. Kershner, who went on to work in two other seminal franchises, directing “Never Say Never Again” and “Robocop II,” did an interview with Vanity Fair last month on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of “Empire” in which he, interestingly, expressed his displeasure with the tendencies of the American studio system:
American film tends to be sentimental and rarely depicts the soul of its citizens. And if the film doesn’t have guns, it isn’t an action film. But for me, the real turnoff is in the final scenes. The experience is often wrapped up in a pretty consumer package guaranteed to show us that life is good and people finally see the light. Foreign films tend not to have this denouement. The chips fall and lay dead and buried if need be. Think of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, Ingmar Berman’s great films Fanny and Alexander and Cries and Whispers, or Fellini’s 8 1/2. The stories are not skewed for the happy ending. The studio system is geared to make money, not to tell stories. American films generally cost too much to make and cost millions more to advertise so that the product can open as many pockets as possible.