BRINGING UP BABY (HOWARD HAWKS, 1938)
LA ReGLE du Jeu is an incredible combination of satire, farce and tragedy, and Bringing Up Baby is a screwball comedy, which has a totally absurd edge.
Both films were incredibly ahead of their time; now people see them as great films, but Renoir's film was actually banned by the French government for its subversive nature and Bringing Up Baby is a pre-feminist satire on masculinity and romance.
La Regle du Jeu attacks pre-Second World War French politics, and it involves several love triangles and affairs, set in a big country house.
It has an Upstairs, Downstairs feel and links the lives of the rich people who are there to enjoy a weekend shooting, with what is going on downstairs in the servants quarters. It ends with death, and genuine tragedy. But it is amazing how the film somehow combines all these different levels, farce with deep tragedy, and makes it somehow feel innovative and natural.
Bringing Up Baby is basically a love story, or rather a battle, with feisty Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant as two people who are obviously attracted to one another, but can't stop arguing and exposing each others' faults. It's a critique of masculinity, as Hepburn constantly undermines Grant's authority; she deflates him. Howard Hawks tends to be seen as a masculine director, but here is this total desire to strip away male pretensions.
There is something about both movies that feels so fresh. Perhaps it is because the characters look as though they have been improvised, and I think that Hawks actually did encourage improvisation on the set.
You think of Katherine Hepburn as a stiff actress, for instance, but she lets loose this fantastic timing and comic flair. And in neither film is the emotion laboured, which means that they go against the modern grain of having to have people actually speak the emotions. Both of them have this delight in people and human nature yet manage to avoid sentimentality.
You would have a really rich afternoon if you saw these two films together, and my own fantasy is to go hooky one day and do just that. To take delight in a variety of human existence.Reuse content