Sunday, July 13, 2008


The other night, I was watching on late-night cable a venerable 80s classic from my high-school days, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," when I noticed something I had never noticed before. Among the rock-band posters on Ferris' bedroom walls is a smallish image of Clouet's "François I" !! (Thought of you, Julianne!)I looked for a screencap online, but the best I could do is the one seen here: look just to the right of the door, and you'll see the king's sleeve. Naturally I geeked out all over the place and pondered the symbolism of this choice. And it's obvious when you think about it. At the end of the film, you get a really good view of François when Ferris has just returned from his day's adventures, jumps in his bed, and his parents open the door to check on him. They stand in the doorway smiling at their son, completely duped, and there's François next to them, looking in this context very sly. At this point in the film, in the lingo of the day, someone might be tempted to say ... "Ferris Rules!" [One of the movie-poster taglines for Ferris Bueller was actually "Leisure Rules."]

"Ferris Bueller" of course has that great scene in the Art Institute of Chicago. Every year, when we talk about Seurat's La Grande Jatte in survey, I ask the class, "Where have you seen this painting before?" It invariably comes like a chorus: "Ferris Bueller!!" Then I proceed to feel old, remembering that hardly any of my students were BORN at the time I sat in the theater enjoying the movie...

Ferris Bueller is not the only John Hughes film character to have a telling art poster on his walls. Prominent in shots of Molly Ringwald's room in "Pretty in Pink" is a Mondrian poster, which is appropriate for her as an aspiring designer, but it could be read symbolically too. Mondrian's famous Composition series was all about achieving a harmonious balance among opposites, black/white, vertical/horizontal, etc. Isn't that the whole plot of rich-boy-meets-poor-girl "Pretty in Pink"?

Meanwhile, I wonder if any of my former students recognized Délacroix's "Liberty Leading the People" on Coldplay's new CD ... who says art history survey class can't come in handy?


Julianne Douglas said...

Cool, Sheramy! Ferris Bueller is actually my husband and teenagers' favorite movie. I'll have to look for Francois next time we watch it. Ferris was my husband's hero, which is all the funnier since my husband looks a lot like Matthew Broderick (only he's aged WAY better!)

Sheramy said...

Haha, I thought you'd get a kick out of that. "Ferris Bueller" is one of the all-time 80s classics, that's for sure. Kids today still like it, as evidenced by my students and your teenagers!