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11.17.2007

BRINGING UP BABY

Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Directed by Howard Hawks
Written by Dudley Nichols & Hagar Wilde







Hooks you purely on its lunatic velocity, also, it's irrevocably funny, because, let's face it, there's no one here to hang on to, no one to root for, no one to like. Not Katherine Hepburn's sassy monster and the kindling she makes of Cary Grant's spineless paleontologist. Nor the gaggle of loopy, batshit kooks that populate this snowball of ruckus. The leopard, maybe. A chaos mechanism full of grace,here is where Hawks' command of the frame gets truly masterful, propelled by nothing more than the anarchic glee with which he works that exquisite dissonance the auteur in him was always savvy at. With not a beat out of synch and not a hair out of place and with no let-up and no coming up for air: calamity physics on 11. There's a line about the love impulse showing up in times of conflict not meant to be throwaway but could misrepresent that cozy rom-com veneer this Kane of screwball has accrued over time to be more than what it is, a veneer. Grant's upright scientist flouncing around in a nightgown or scrabbling about for bones in the wild makes obvious that this is the anatomy of a breakdown, rather, a man broken down by a woman he loathes. But much as Hawks' odd couplings always had the never-ending war between genders as
fulcrum and also happily ending in armistice, he has no pat truce for the crackpot and the nerd here, no. Their misadventures reform neither the pushover he is nor the dominatrix she is and when they fall into each other's arms as a brontosaurus skeleton crumbles below them, after she browbeats him into submitting to her love, you just know their relationship is doomed.

2 comments:

Noel Vera said...

Good stuff, X. It's one of the great comedies, definitely, and what say you of the line "I've gone gay all of a sudden?" I've yet to read a definitive opinion on that line, whether it was meant to be more than it was or not.

dodo dayao said...

Thanks,Noel. And that classic line,yeah. There was also another line about "taking it in the rear". I'm curious, too. I'm inclined to think it wasn't a harmless throwaway line. Hawks himself never fessed up to it but then he's always been nonchalant about his work.