For Germaine Greer, writing in the Guardian, Lauren Bacall in her prime epitomized a "Hawksian woman," the kind of unconventionally beautiful, fearless, spunky female lead found in Howard Hawks‘ late-30s/early 40s flicks before "[t]he war was over and women were back in the bedroom and the kitchen, working on the baby boom." Greer declares her opposite to be Catherine Deneuve, physically flawless and blank, "a receptacle for every conceivable imagination."
The Hawksian woman was an idea that flourished at a time of crisis, in the depression and during the war, when the full energies of women were needed if they were to survive. After the war she was supplanted by the female eunuch, weighed down with huge hair and false eyelashes, unequal to any challenge – all things to all men and nothing to herself.
The occasions for the piece are BuÃ±uel and Bacall retrospectives in London, so Greer doesn’t get around to addressing modern starlets and the continuing divide between, say, the Angelina Jolies and the Nicole Kidmans of the world. One could argue that the blankness she so deplores is less a function of gender these days than a certain type of film iconicity â€” as Dana Stevens wrote in her appreciation of Keanu Reeves at Slate last summer, "It’s Keanu’s very passivity, his unflappable Zen emptiness, that makes him a compellingly quiet and focused hero."
Also inspired by the Bacall retrospective is Ian Johns at the London Times, who studies the Bogie-Bacall dynamic on- and off-screen and cites Richard Schickel: â€œI think their stable family life may have even liberated him as an actor. He began to take risks at an age when other stars would have been content with a successful screen persona.â€
Tim Robey at the Telegraph looks over BuÃ±uel:
When his 17-minute Surrealist masterpiece Un chien andalou (1929), one of two collaborations with Salvador DalÃ, made him the toast of Paris, he claimed to be horrified, describing it as "a desperate and impassioned call for murder". It begins, notoriously, with the slicing of a woman’s eyeball â€“ the hand holding the razor is, of course, BuÃ±uel’s own. That image remains cinema’s most potent affront to the whole notion of viewership, a throwing of the gauntlet that tells us no holds will be barred. We can only watch on, timid and spellbound.
+ Siren song (Guardian)
+ Here’s looking at you with fresh eyes (London Times)
+ Surrealist master whose films captured the comedy of the irrational (Telegraph)