Irvin Kershner, who died Saturday at age 87, was a solid journeyman director, his early films — several of which, especially “The Flim-Flam Man” and “The Luck of Ginger Coffey” are supposed to be pretty good — are obscure enough that even I haven’t seen too many of them. He was also a graduate of the USC Film School in 1950, which makes him, I guess, about the first of the film school brats.
He’s known today primarily because of two strong, dramatic action films. The first was a 1976 fact-based TV movie, “Raid on Entebbe.” The second was, uh-hmm, “The Empire Strikes Back.” For one film in the series, a “Star Wars” film had a genuinely well-written screenplay with good dialogue and a director who knew how to elicit strong work from actors and structure a dramatic moment. For some reason, everyone agrees it was the best of the series. Watch this scene again, though you’ve certainly seen it before. There’s emotion going on.
Kershner was, I gather, a gracious and intelligent man. Here is a brief tribute/outtake from the documentary “The Nature of Existence” in which Kershner endorses “the Force” in a way, while also speaking out for a spiritual, but entirely non-supernatural view of life, death, and creativity.
Much more, as usual, at MUBI.
UPDATE: The fine blogger Greg Ferrara argues that “The Luck of Ginger Coffey” was a lot better than “pretty good.”