Retrospective: Howard Hawks
Who the hell is Howard Hawks? In a nutshell, he is one of the greatest auteurs of the classic Hollywood era.
During a four-decade-long filmmaking career, Hawks directed westerns (Red River, Rio Bravo), screwball comedies (His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby), adventures (Hatari!), musicals (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), gangster films (Scarface) or film noir (The Big Sleep). All of these movies belong to the best of the given genre and, unlike those of his contemporaries, are relevant even today.
There are several reasons for this: Hawks’ life-long collaboration with accomplished screenwriters, his sensitive approach to working with actors, letting them improvise and appropriate their characters. All these factors contributed to the hitherto impressive vividness and authenticity of his films. And here we come to the term Peter Bogdanovich could kill for: a Hawksian dialogue. See for yourself.
And not to mention the Hawksian women! As opposed to most of his contemporaries, Hawks didn’t deal with the topics of families, children or happy endings. Despite his strictly conservative approach to women, he introduced the audience to a new type of a heroine (to the delight of all feminists), an independent, witty and energetic woman equal to her partner.
With this section, we would like to point out that a good genre film is a precious, thin on the ground commodity. We would also like to provide a benchmark against which to judge contemporary directors. You won’t be alone: When Quentin Tarantino wrote his Pulp Fiction, he went through the whole retrospective of Howard Hawk’s oeuvre.
Iva Hejlíčková is the SFS programming director and one of the festival’s core team members. She specialises in Anglo-Saxon films and she loves classical Hollywood cinema with (almost) all of its filmmakers.
Michael Málek is a retired film distributor, programmer and an occasional film historian who keeps watch on everything around film, especially on Hollywood production and related topics.