Just as John Hughes’s movies had a way of explaining the entire world through a small slice of life — a prom, a day off of school, a 16th birthday — the director’s explanation of pointillism in the museum scene of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is so much more than an art history lesson.
The video is from 2009, but it was recently unearthed by the Guardian. Hughes’s insights about pointillism are so universal that writer Hadley Freeman uses his words to explain the three-ring circus of the Republican primary race.
In the whimsical scene at the Art Institute in Chicago, one of the film’s many stops on a hooky-playing whirlwind tour of the Windy City, Ferris, Sloane and Cameron study some of the director’s own favorite works of art. In a video clip in which Hughes explains the scene, he describes the Art Institute as “a place of refuge” for him in high school. He says that the paintings shown in the scene — by Edward Hopper, Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, Mary Cassatt, Amodeo Modigliani and Jackson Pollock — are among his favorites.
As Ferris and Sloane kiss in front of a stained-glass window, Cameron concentrates on George Seurat’s painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” Explaining the pointillist style — and moviemanking, teenage angst and adult insecurity — Hughes says, “I always thought this painting was sort of like making a movie, the pointillist style,” he says. “You don’t have any idea what you’ve made until you step back from it. ... The more he looks at it, there’s nothing there. He fears that the more you look at him, the less you see.”
Hughes’s Post obituary spoke to the depth of his teenage characters, demonstrated in the museum clip: “Mr. Hughes’s young protagonists spoke in perceptive ways peppered with the latest slang, and despite all their differences, they were unified by their need to survive without any help from their elders.” Hank Stuever also write an appreciation of Hughes after his 2009 death, saying, “What were meant to be larky, cheaply made teen comedies remain fixed in memory as documentary accounts of that time, that place, that music, those clothes, those people, that angst.”