We’d like to direct your attention back to Eric Hynes’s superb piece on John Hughes’s seminal Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, written for Reverse Shot’s 2007 symposium “On Demand.”. A wide-ranging yet specific look at what Hughes meant to teen video culture, but also the film culture at large, the essay “Be Kind, Rewind” is the perfect tribute to this undoubted icon of our formative years.
Here’s a sample:
John Hughes movies don’t lose anything on the small screen. That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but only because cinephiles tend to place greater value on the pictorial (or, tellingly territorial: “cinematic”) qualities of film over the meat and potatoes—and eminently televisible aspects—of story and character. Hughes’s art depends on the quality of the writing, full stop. When his writing is good, as in Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off , his films are as funny, exhilarating, and remain as timeless as anything from the post-silent, pre-television heyday of Preston Sturges and Ernst Lubitsch. Those writer-auteurs could emphasize what they wished, make use of the camera without making spectacle, entertain without busily bombasting against irrelevancy, spin a good yarn, talk clever and pratfall with precision, and leave room for the stars to shine. (The same extended to critics, as I can’t imagine another time when James Agee could champion, as he did, Charlie Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux—all coded, jokes-caught-in-the-throat dialogue, with major action transpiring off-screen and far from its flat, stage-like interiors—as the height of cinematic achievement.) Hughes didn’t operate during that era, and didn’t receive that level of respect or critical praise, but from the mid Eighties to the early Nineties, he was very, very successful at reaching his target audience of young adults, college students, and post-grads. That these were precisely the years of the home video boom, and that his audience was the generation that fueled and presided over that boom, was absolutely crucial to his success. The John Hughes generation didn’t care a whit about aspect ratios or screen size. They cared about laughing and about feeling smart while laughing, and they cared about relating. Home video and cable television only made it easier to connect, to own the connection and revisit it at will.