dear greg x, i would like nothing more than to drink irresponsibly and tell you exactly why you're wrong about hawks (short answer: you're kind of half right and the space in which you go wrong is the key to hawks as a director, perhaps), but that thread is simply not the place to do so. and you are right in loving big sky, hatari!, and ball of fire.....
thanks for the kind words sir. wondering how to slow down the discussion on the forum to a more considered pace. or if that can even happen on a public forum. have you read any of the writing on hawks? i find it all weirdly off key but almost always fascinating, as wollen points out he can start to seem like an auteurist rorschach blot.
Slowing down discussion on the forum isn't all that easy, mostly the more involved conversations end up coming about due to a handful of people being really interested in the subject and maintaining focus on it until the less interested drop out and the rest of the forum goes on to other things. Even then, there can be difficulties if someone wants to stick to arguing some particular point that prevents the discussion from developing. It happens, but not as often as one might hope. Oh, sure, I've read a fair amount about Hawks from all sorts of writers, though I'm sure there is plenty more still out there for me to read too. But My take on the writing is much the same as yours it appears, where the things said sorta fit, but don't really get to the essence of the films, and I say that without regard to any overall judgment applied, just the accuracy of the "feel" for Hawks beyond a certain point. What I'm interested in is more the structural relationships between the characters themselves and as part of the formal arrangement of the film. The other stuff, like that I mentioned in the thread about my personal feeling is secondary since it necessarily arises from the structure. The arguments made from that can go either direction depending on what one takes as the more personally suitable inflection, but if the structural understanding is solid then at least those disagreements over "taste" are coming from the same base. If that makes sense.
yes...it's the breakdown in understanding of what a director actually does on set. what is especially galling is that, in hawks' case, his extremely hands on work with his actors and scripts is totally spelled out in mccarthy's bio. watching a ton of the films together, from the '20s to the '50s, you see these sets of rhythms, gestures, phrases, motifs in the musical sense. the most indelible moments in hawks are musical...drum boogie...i can't give you anything but love (baby)...whiskey oh whiskey....that rio bravo song....hoagy carmichael in to have and have not...jean arthur at the piano in angels...
Yeah, absolutely, I just watched that scene in Only Angels a few minutes ago in fact, and the kind of "life" to it is undeniable, in the way so many other moments are in Hawks films. It reminds me of some theater based writing of the time where they talk about the gesture as a key location of emphasis by repetition and a kind of notability. This is something some of the film writers have dealt with too, like Woods if I remember correctly, and is rightly I think extended to other areas of interaction between characters, that kind of bonding, which is undoubtedly Hawks' area of interest.
yeah there is a contigency is hawks - performance before camera is a given, performance before the one you love is a given too; they blend, of course, since how many hawks films see the poor sucker fall for someone in performing mode (ball of fire and to have and have not are only the most blatant examples). like rivette his personal understanding of human behavior lines up almost perfectly with the practical questions of 'how do i make a movie.' incidentally bonding is key to hawks but so is solitude; the image of victor mclagen (silently) screaming over betrayal in 'girl in every port' is a much a part of the primal image of that film as all the male bonding...
I think you have it right when you speak about performance, since the bonding, both male and female is so often tied to that either as the manner in which the bond is formed directly, or in how the performative aspect is shared in front of "others". Hawks' few close ups seem to go towards that feeling of solitude you mention, where the performance reaches a kind of limit which can't be sustained. If one carries out the analogy. I need to rewatch Girl in Every Port again as it's been a long time since I saw it. Criminal Code too for that matter, another I liked but remember only vaguely.
yeah, agree with you about close-ups/solitude...shamus- said earlier that the pivotal moment in ford is when a character actively looks inward & reflects (say wayne watering the grave in 'yellow ribbon'); the pivotal moment in hawks might be where the performance can no longer be maintained....angie dickinson humbling wayne in rio bravo, bogart losing his 'cool' when the man slaps bacall in 'to have and have not,' that moment where all the reporters are shamed into silence in 'girl friday'...
Yes, that definitely rings true for many of his films, maybe more so the dramas, where I would add Kid's death scene in Only Angels as another example, depending on how one wants to interpret the idea of performance. I wonder if the some of the comedies can't be said then to more or less reverse that principle, getting Cary Grant's character to accept a new role, say in Bringing Up Baby, or for Rosalind Russell's character to return to one in His Girl Friday, depending on how one views the alternative "tamer" option in that regard.
well it think the comedies are pretty straightforwardly bergsonian...comedy exists where the human becomes machine-like, the emergence of humor must bring this body/structure/narrative back to life...in baby, ball of fire & song is born, friday, monkey bussiness, even war bride the character must go through tribulations to find a part of their self they have lost or never discovered.
Heh, how so? Oh, and I should mention that I'm perhaps one of the few who still is iffy about the "Hawks secretly directed The Thing" thing, since from what I've read that isn't entirely clear at all, though I certainly wouldn't dispute him having significant influence over it in some way.
ha, short answer 20th century is about a ham theater guy who teaches a normal girl to be a diva and after they break up they find they are so broken they only belong to each other; this is a bullshit summary though, not getting to the grace or form of the film. which is very complicated and almost beautiful. seeing thing again i believe it is hawks; i follow mccarthy here as well (and he calls hawks out on his more egregious claims). if it is not hawks it is someone imitating him to the letter; if it is, it is hawks in fascinating auto-pilot...
I think imitating him down to the letter might be my take on it since a few things I read had Nyby at the actual helm, but who knows? So much movie history is a weird combination of myth, advertising, self or otherwise, and good soldiering that I can't take any account at face value. Oh, I almost love Twentieth Century, Lombarde and Barrymore? How could I not? That damned annoying sticker guy and some other side stuff is what keeps it from being an absolute pleasure. That said, early Hawks too is different than later Hawks not only in energy and his skills, but in his relationship with the studio. Something which a little later would separate him from many of his fellow directors due to how clever Hawks was at getting control over his career and projects.
hm, perhaps like other great directors (to, ruiz, godard, feuillade) hawks' greatness is so tied to his creation of ideal production circumstances that he can not 'direct' a film and it is still a hawks movie (and the meat and potatoes of directing in the studio era is always confusing; hawks left for the kentucky derby for the last week of 'sergeant york,' for one example). ha i love that sticker guy in 20th century, but my tolerance for that crap is pretty high, and i saw it with a large and highly engaged audience (which always shifts my engagement with a comedy immensely). have you read the mccarthy book? it's not terribly insightful but the particulars of the production back and forth on many of the films is fascinating, kind of opens a lot of curtains on 30s & 40s studio films.
No, I haven't read the McCarthy book, but I have read others on the subject and it is fascinating, not to mention sort of contradictory to a number of "theories" that float around over artists and control. I think you are probably right in regards to Hawks and the creative process though, at least from what I can judge. Perhaps in a way like Welles, anything he touched takes on his personality to at least some notable degree. Heh. Yeah, my tolerance for stuff like the sticker guy can vary pretty enormously. Don't really know why he bugged me so much the last couple of times I saw the movie. Might have to rewatch it to see what I think now since it's been awhile. The audience and big screen experience is great. I miss it. I used to be able to see a lot more "classic" movies that way than I can now and it really isn't the same watching at home alone.
i went through a long period because of crazy work schedules that i rarely saw any films in theaters (i missed two complete bresson serires and a complete ozu, for one thing). now i am trying to slow down; with the festival and complete hawks and godard retros, i can pretty much only see work in theater or on film if i want to. and it is really transformative, for how i see work, how i care about it. maybe next year will try to stop watching film altogether, just see theater or something...
Thanks James. Kinda a random selection of caps I took that I had sitting on my hard drive which seemed to work well enough with each other. Nice group of favorites you have, don't know how you manage to limit yourself to so few though. I'm also pleased to see you are enjoying To. He's a favorite of mine as well.
Thanks greg. The limited favorites thing is an experiment, trying the "pare away" approach in search of the truly "James" aesthetic. Believe me, there are bunches of films I love-love that aren't on the favs for one dumb reason or other… and yea, To's work is quite strong, imo. I've been blown away by his craftsmanship and intelligence, and now that I'm into him, I'm really happy that I still have like a dozen or so Tos still to discover.
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