Friday, August 7, 2009

John Hughes 1950-2009

I remember two years ago when, during my stay at a cottage my family rented in Northern Ontario, I heard on the radio that Ingmar Bergman had passed away. Then, a few days later, I had gotten back home only to find out that another legendary filmmaker, Michelangelo Antonioni, had died within twenty-four hours of Bergman. Well, this year I received a similar shock: on the same day I got home from my family's latest cottage excursion, I read the news that John Hughes unexpectedly died from a heart attack at the age of fifty-nine.

Now, it goes without saying that John Hughes wasn't exactly the same kind of filmmaker as Bergman or Antonioni - he wasn't what you'd typically call an art house director, nor a "visionary" filmmaker. Instead, he shared the same ranks as Woody Allen - he had a distinctive voice that he used, through his films, to tell insightful, resonant stories that truly affected generations of people. As the many other online obits are saying, Hughes helped define the 1980s and pave the way for a new representation and understanding of teenagers in the movies. By simply looking at the handful of films he directed alone, you can easily get a measure of how drastically he changed the concept of the teen movie. I can safely say that he is the person most responsible for making the teen movie what it is today, and it's difficult if not impossible to not see the signs of his influence in others' work in the same area.

The first Hughes film I remember seeing is Ferris Bueller's Day Off, which my cousin Pierre showed me one afternoon at his place. It certainly was an excellent introduction to his work, not only because it contains his trademark sharp humor and great writing, but also because it's just so damn good. Around the same time (or possibly before? - my memory is hazy), Uncle Buck became a favorite of my family's, one that we'd revisit many, many times over the years. I'd later see other classic Hughes films such as The Breakfast Club and Planes, Trains and Automobiles and come to regard him with the same measure of respect and appreciation that so many have already bestowed, and that he so rightfully deserves.

And there is no more apt a time to renew that respect and appreciation than now - and no better way than by revisiting one (or a few) of his many classics. I myself plan to rewatch Ferris Bueller's Day Off as soon as I can on one of my days off from work (because, of course, you can't watch a movie like this one on a day you have to work or go to school!), probably followed up by The Breakfast Club.

Rest in peace, Mr. Hughes.

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