Thursday, August 18, 2005

Conversations With My Mom: Auteur Theory

Mom: Your dad and I just watched Ball Of Fire and Crime Of Passion, both with Barbara Stanwyck. Have you seen them?
Me: Just Ball Of Fire. It's great.
Mom: How come you haven't seen the other one? I thought you liked Barbara Stanwyck.
Me: I love Barbara Stanwyck. Ball Of Fire is by Howard Hawks, one of my favorite directors. But Crime Of Passion some obscure guy [Gerd Oswald].
Mom: So, even though you love Barbara Stanwyck, you wouldn't see a movie just to see her in it?
Me: No, not always.
Mom: But she's wonderful in everything she does.
Me: She sure is.
Mom: So, why are you so gung-ho on directors?
Me: [pause, bracing myself] It's something called...[ahem]...the "auteur theory".
Mom: [cocks an eyebrow] Come again?
Me: Here's an example: All the movies by Hawks tend to be similar, have a certain style, a certain attitude. They repeat ideas and characters and themes...
Mom: Is this the guy who directed those two movies you made us watch last week?
Me: Yeah, Rio Bravo and El Dorado.
Mom: But they were both really the same movie!
Me: Yeah, wasn't that great?
Mom: No. Why would you want a director to repeat himself, make the same movie all over again?
Me: [defensively] Well, Mom, they're not exactly the same, there are cool little differences....But the big reason why they're so great is because every one of his movies is a Hawks movie....It's like every movie he makes has his fingerprints all over it, you know? His unique way of seeing the world, it's in every one of his movies....[trailing off]
Mom: [pauses, then smiles mischievously and throws in a word she has recently picked up from American television]: Whatever.


Blogger Flickhead said...

"Crime of Passion" has a few excellent, frenzied scenes in it, and has a unique, critical understanding of marraige and sexual descrimination. The screenplay was by Jo Eisenger, who also wrote Dassin's "Night and the City." (Dassin was eternally lost without the guidance of a good writer.) Gerd Oswald was no slouch either, and did some excellent work on TV's "Outer Limits" (the real series from the '60s, not later counterfeits).

Hawks or no Hawks, I'd rather watch "Crime of Passion" over (the shrill) "Ball of Fire" any day.

August 18, 2005 3:06 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks for the heads-up there, Flickhead. I long ago learned to never underestimate my mom.

August 18, 2005 3:13 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...


Girish -- these conversations with your mom are fantastic. Keep them coming!

August 18, 2005 3:14 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Merci, Filmbrain.
Mom's a cool gal: wish it hadn't taken me a couple of decades to get hip to it.

August 18, 2005 3:21 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

I've only seen A Kiss Before Dying and Bunny O'Hare. Gerd Oswald's father was top silent era German director Richard Oswald, famed for Different from Others. As for Babs Stanwyck, my favorites are Capra's Miracle Woman and Bitter Tea of General Yen, and Sam Fuller's Forty Guns.
My mom loved seeing films with me. The last time we were together we saw Rushmore and Taxi Driver.
She actually got me out of high school one day so I could see the Denver critics' screening of Midnight Cowboy.

August 18, 2005 6:13 PM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

That's pretty funny. Ever since I could remember, my dad didn't seem to be a film buff, but about 20 years ago now, I played Litvak's Goodbye Again for my parents and at the end of it, he said that it had the feel of Françoise Sagan (I hadn't said who wrote it) and suggested that I check out Bonjour Tristesse. Apparently, he spent the better part of his youth at the Cinémathèque so he had pretty much seen everything up to 1960. He's turned out to be a wealth of information. :)

August 19, 2005 1:32 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Neat story, A.
I've been asking my dad questions and writing down some of the stuff he tells me about his past. All kinds of cool stories I had no idea about.
Tried it on my mom but she just waved me away. Must try harder.

August 19, 2005 2:53 PM  
Blogger Campaspe said...

Your mother is absolutely priceless. And now I want to see "Crime of Passion." I'm rather like her, actually; if I love an actor or actress I'll watch them in almost anything.

August 19, 2005 10:02 PM  
Anonymous rakesh said...

Mom: [pauses, then smiles mischievously and throws in a word she has recently picked up from American television]: Whatever.

Lol..I love that

October 13, 2005 10:50 AM  
Anonymous cgeye said...

The first act of Crime of Passion is surprisingly feminist: The women in the montage responding to the blatant sob sister pitch of Stanwyck's character, seen doing jobs (in the house and out) that let us know who trapped (or not) they are domestically. That sets us up for Stanwyck's jarring decision to give up the advancement her pitch gave for a life as a cop's wife. Once the second act immerses us in that life, we see why her natural ambition would distort into a feral need to advance her hubby -- and how Raymond Burr's character recognizes her hunger, and admires it.

It's an atypical noir, because it takes it time, but it's worth it.

April 04, 2010 4:53 AM  

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