that Hawksian style (updated with video!)

Last weekend was the spring edition of HorrorHound Weekend, a convention where fans can meet their favorite stars of horror film and television. I attended purely in a fan aspect, although one of these days, it might be cool to attend in a more…scholarly…approach, so I can do a bunch of write-ups for this here blorgf. I do have a separate write-up for the weekend overall – that’s coming soon – but for now, I want to focus on one of the guests at HHW who happens to be my favorite director:

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pictured: John Carpenter and some jerkwad (me. that’s me!)

VIDEO FROM THE CHRISTINE Q&A PANEL AT HORRORHOUND WEEKEND!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=WmZn7-aCV4M#t=1807s

I tried to embed the video, but I SUCK AT LIFE, so if you click the link above, it will take you right to the moment in the Q&A where I sound like a goddamn asshole and Carpenter is clearly cooler than me.

Having John Carpenter as a guest at HHW is kind of a big deal. He directed a lot of great horror films – even though he’s stated that he is not fond of being pigeonholed as a horror director – and is considered a master of the genre. So getting the chance to meet him was pretty amazing and really, aside from the photo (and video!) evidence, I’m still not sure that it really happened. But I’m not here to talk about that. Let’s go back to the above exchange, in which Carpenter states that Howard Hawks’ influence on him was not necessarily from a specific film, but rather Hawks’ entire oeuvre.

If you’re a fan of both directors, this would make sense. Hawks and Carpenter both have directed a variety of films that individually defy a single genre. They both have a directing style that essentially removes the director from the film – as Carpenter mentioned, Hawks didn’t have a signature shot or angle or a particular way of shooting films that visually lets people know that they’re watching a Hawks film. It’s this absence of style, so to speak, that defines both Hawks’ and Carpenter’s styles. Both directors bring a no-nonsense sensibility to their films. Neither director uses fancy camerawork or trickery. Hawks has been quoted as saying that a good director doesn’t annoy the audience, and it would seem that Carpenter has especially taken this to heart, allowing his films to play out without directorial embellishment.

This devotion to the idea that the director leaves as few fingerprints on their work as possible is never more evident than in Carpenter’s films, almost to the point where the lack of fingerprints becomes its own fingerprints. Carpenter consistently uses standard medium shots and a static camera (when he isn’t using a Steadicam). The minimalism seeps over into the soundtracks to his films. Carpenter typically scores his own films, using few instruments, typically just a piano or a synthesizer. His films are hardly frenetic in their editing, as well. Nothing in Carpenter’s films scream “THIS IS A FILM YOU ARE WATCHING A FILM.”

And that seems to be the major Hawks influence, indeed. The lack of style that is the style. The inability to pin the director down into one genre alone. It indeed isn’t one or two Hawks films that have an impact of Carpenter’s career, but rather the whole of Hawks’ career that influenced him. It was exciting to hear this from Carpenter himself, although it wasn’t exactly surprising for anyone familiar with either director. Still, it was fun to have the opportunity to ask him directly about something that wasn’t necessarily related to a specific film or actor – *koffHalloweenkoffKurtRussell* – but rather about his whole body of work so far.

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Stay tuned for a post about the rest of HorrorHound Weekend, including meeing other cool people, and lines that could have gone TO THE MOON!

 

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2 thoughts on “that Hawksian style (updated with video!)

    1. It’s so true though. But I’ll give it to him, I think he has done well in modeling his career on Hawks’, without it seeming like he’s straight-up stealing from him. Except for Rio Bravo.

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