Dennis Cozzalio ruminates with characteristic insight and erudition about one of my favorite comedies in a post from a couple of weeks ago. A good chunk of his post is spent discussing the way industry buzz about production history creates an oft-dysfunctional synergy with audience response. It’s almost impossible to talk critically about Hudson Hawk without considering its behind-the-scenes drama and its reputation as one of the biggest bombs in Hollywood history; to me, that’s one of the most fascinating things about it as an artifact of early 90s cinema. After some introductory remarks on industry buzz as a PR tool, Cozzalio frames his post with accounts of attending an opening night screening in May 1991 and of a screening he attended earlier this month with his daughter, contrasting the two experiences and highlighting how atmosphere (and time) can make a huge difference in how one sees a film.
“It was a genuine pleasure to enjoy Hudson Hawk last night, after having spent 21 years secure in the belief that it was a piece of shit. The imminently self-deprecating Daniel Waters was also in attendance, and his comments to the near sold-out crowd suggested that although elements of the movie’s tortured history and its reception in the marketplace might still be sore spots there was also the feeling that he’s at peace with it, fully aware of the value of his contribution and understanding that a movie this crazy has no chance of pleasing everyone. As it turned out, my daughter Emma and I sat in the seats directly in front of him, and I loved her vocal enjoyment of the movie as much for her sake as for Waters’—the movie definitely appealed to her emerging sense of the absurd and her appreciation of slapstick violence. But the roaring of the New Beverly audience last night wasn’t entirely for Daniel Waters’ benefit– they seemed to genuinely enjoy their time withHudson Hawk, a movie that the teeming, contradictory, fractured, multitasking sensibility of American pop culture may finally have caught up with.”
Cozzalio is one of those rare critics who is sensitive to his own, continually-evolving aesthetic sensibility and taste, and is able to mine his subjective experience for sparkling gems of insight without the weight of his own self-regard caving in on his head. In fact, he is probably one of the most humble film writers on the Internet, which is all the more shocking, given how brilliant he (probably knows he) is.
My own experience with Hudson Hawk is more prosaic; I randomly caught it on TV sometime in the mid-to-late 90s, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Having been but an adolescent, film-illiterate whippersnapper at the time of the film’s release, its rep and history weren’t factors in my initial experience, though they’ve informed it in the years since. It gives me great pleasure, though, to see that Hudson Hawk is slowly, finally getting its due. Kudos to Cozzalio for his appreciation. ☕