Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

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knives
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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#226 Post by knives » Tue Jun 23, 2020 7:12 am

How far have you gotten? The tragedy doesn't end it seems. Living 100 years ago just sounds awful.

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#227 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jun 23, 2020 8:16 am

Not very far, and yeah I believe it- though more evidence of the cruelty of reality infiltrating an empowering bubble only adds fuel to the fire in this contrast that would become a Hawks staple. I do think there’s something about early childhood traumatic experience (i.e. witnessing a death at the age you’re only starting to form memories) that is life-changing, regardless of how he may bury or block it out in favor of more lucid, later memories.

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#228 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jun 23, 2020 8:12 pm

knives wrote:
Mon Jun 08, 2020 1:49 pm
Man, it sucks how many of these interesting sounding early ventures McCarthy brings up are MIA. A Broken Doll is something I want to see today.
The Lotus Eater sounds the best to me: John Barrymore washes up on a desert island only to stumble upon a free-spirited alt-society? Yes please

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#229 Post by knives » Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:13 pm

Today We Live was significantly better then I expected although the original idea, basically the back half of this movie, or even a making of docudrama would be even more exciting. As is the sort of terse take on melodrama presented here without tears is fascinating. It offers a unique take on the MGM narrative style as if it were to be exposed to a harsher Warner Bros. light and conversely opens up on Hawks the director as the first successful film he has made under the thumb of others.

It's easy to imagine what George Cukor would have done with the same material to play a game of a pure MGM movie. It would have been more brightly lit and with a camera further away, yet showcasing a desire to live within the characters more. Hawks instead allows the intimacy to come from the shadows as he slowly studies faces. His comfort doesn't seem to allow for many shots of the whole body with the camera above the waist through most of the film or even in close up. Yet this doesn't makes for an analytical or distant from. Rather between Hawks' interests in minutia and Faulkner's, whose script is dynamite particularly in the sections from the first draft, experiment with a view on reduced dialogue they become empathetic standins for the whole concept of a lost generation. Here are people less defined by their relationships then how they interact with the war. As humans they remain enigmas, but as archetypes for a new world they are clearly defined by their grasping for self definition. I really wish we got more films like this because even if this version is not perfect it suggests a possible route for the cinema that could be very exciting. As is I can't help but love this film in excess of its merits because it is so unique and special.

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#230 Post by Rayon Vert » Sat Jun 27, 2020 11:10 pm

Paid to Love (1st viewing). This does very much start with a Paramount/Lubitsch Ruritanian romcom feel. Definitely somewhat funnier than Fig Leaves but not all that more sophisticated, especially since the major plot device is a question of mistaken identity. Strangely the tone near the end becomes completely dramatic. Virginia Valli is really the main focus here, as O’Brien is not onscreen that much. I guess if this has any continuity with later Hawks it’s the theme of the female revitalizing the bloodless male (Bringing Up Baby, Ball of Fire, Man’s Favorite Sport?).


El Dorado (revisit). Rio Bravo is a lock for my top 5 and I’m not revisiting it so it’s not fresh enough in memory to do a comparison with this one, and I’d thought anyway it would be more fun to just try and appreciate the film on its own. The previous time I saw this was quite a while ago but again I was very partial to the first half of the film, which is on the whole a different story and film, and for one thing we’re most often in open, exterior scenes, in stark contrast to a lot of Bravo. It’s really following this that the film turns into a more violent quasi-remake of the earlier film, and then we’re back in mostly interior/studio scenes. Mitchum and Caan are great in their own way, though, and really I have no qualms with those who prefer this, although the earlier film has a pace and a more organic feel that still charm me a lot more. But the dialogue here is smart, the direction very able, and it’s a lot of fun too - it's dramatically engaging and suspenseful enough. It’s likely to make my list as well in fact, but I’m just disappointed Hawks just didn’t venture out into something less repetitious given how different and strongly it starts.

Fun fact that Hawks usedhere Harold Rosson as director of photography (his last film), and they’d only worked together previously on… Trent’s Last Case! Kind of fitting for a film that’s partially about old men.

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#231 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Jun 27, 2020 11:54 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:
Sat Jun 27, 2020 11:10 pm
I guess if this has any continuity with later Hawks it’s the theme of the female revitalizing the bloodless male (Bringing Up Baby, Ball of Fire, Man’s Favorite Sport?).
McCarthy argues this very point in his biography, but also includes a bunch of other examples (since his definition is to "around [the male's] interest in women" allowing them to be 'strong' in other ways), including Only Angels Have Wings and Rio Bravo.

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#232 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Jun 28, 2020 1:41 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Thu Jun 11, 2020 4:53 pm
The Big Sky: Unfortunately I only got to see the shorter cut both times so I have no sense of how much better the longer version is, but I still like the film well enough. There is an immediate investment in the affinity between men as well as in the mission itself, with Douglas endearing but not stealing scenes beyond serving as a focal point for some collaborative positive energy. I appreciated the humility in the act of sharing the screen, with Douglas taking more of a back seat in the narrative than his star power should allow. The film functions as an evolving western-like adventure full of narrative possibilities that are realised, and comfortable relationship-building along the way. I enjoyed the perceptual musings on human nature and inanimate nature, and a romanticism coats each conversation and action in one way or another. As the narrative progresses the amusement of these evolving relationships hit a point of stagnation where the second half loses some steam, but perhaps the longer cut fixes these issues?
I've now seen the longer cut, and while I'm not so sure that it "fixes" any issues, I'm not so sure those issues were there to begin with- since further acclimation to the rhythm helped me abolish any misgivings about the second half. The fluid, serene tone of this adventure makes it more of an action-film of energy passing between people and movement through nature, than between man and an enigmatic quest or antagonist like your typical western. Even the instances of conflict or pain are treated as celebrations of life, if only for the ability to 'feel' or 'experience' -and adopt attitudes that can transform tragedies into reasons to be grateful for having that which has been lost, or of our abilities to embody moral codes, work together, and support a friend.

Certain losses, like that of a body part, can actually be laughed off authentically! The power to tweak our mood lies in a way of life, established by genuine camaraderie and acceptance of nature's predictable and unpredictable languages. The final loss, that of a specific relationship dynamic in the film’s final moments, allows solemnity while respecting the transient state of life in order to embrace meaning in the gifts of human bonds.

There are a few scenes added later on that help the film flesh out its dynamics and the contemplative weight of actions, but my favorite 'missing' scene was an early one, following the main duo's first encounter. Following the fight in the woods, Jim and Boone take their time getting to know one another, camping outside and conversing in a long, playful, magical moment. This establishes their friendship and carries an intimacy that is complex and beautiful, which effectively cements them as friends by the time they enter the town and go drinking. It's a key addition to an already perfect first act, and its removal is an injustice to the relationship's sweet flavor.

Going back to this one after finishing off Hawks' filmography and contemplating it, I'm astonished that this isn't considered his first 'hangout' movie. I'd even make a case for A Song Is Born, with its loose narrative space, but here scenes just breathe better than any of his later works that meditate on the spirit of man's capacity for connective harmony. The optimism here is so profound, and Hawks and his actors (Hawks, and even McCarthy, believe Douglas was wrong for the part, but he is perfect in this atypical leisurely role- never better than the giggly finger-cutting scene, that Wayne refused to do in Red River and hilariously relented after seeing this scene of comedic genius) imbue a sparkle that reveals the countless opportunities to engage positively with one another in this world, as a reflection of our own.

This is definitely making my list, high enough to leave all the other hangout movies in the dust. I highly recommend that fans that gravitate towards Hawks' later works check this one out- preferably the longer version.

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#233 Post by senseabove » Sun Jun 28, 2020 4:08 am

domino harvey wrote:
Mon Jun 01, 2020 5:07 pm
therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Jun 01, 2020 5:03 pm
I also love Man's Favorite Sport? go figure
The Paula Prentiss Principle applies
Is this the straight man's counterpart to the Rock Hudson Rule? "Either you want to watch them or you don't and boy do I"? Because having just watched Man's Favorite Sport?, I was surprised to see her cited as a positive in both discussions in this thread. If acting is reacting, I... would change the subject to the fact that my manuscript, In Defense of Rock Hudson, grew a few pages.

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knives
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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#234 Post by knives » Mon Jun 29, 2020 10:30 am

(I rewatched Twentieth Century, but what can be said about perfection?)

Barbary Coast
I very strongly disliked Hopkins' performance here. In its flat hamminess the whole picture begins to sink which is a shame because score aside this is a masterwork from everyone else. The image is a gorgeous splash of shadow and fog while Robinson's villain is one of the most compelling of the '30s and the best dramatic character yet featured in a Hawks' film. Everything great about Swearengen outside of his namesake trait is on full display for this Machiavellian business gangster with some pathos of the pathetic thrown in for good measure. Contrary to McCarthy I see a lot of Hawks at least in this character. He had been building to him for awhile with Tony and Robinson's earlier performance as clear forebears. This idea of a powerful man rendered weak due to a woman if something that seems to have always fascinated Hawks, most likely serving as his source of love for as different a filmmaker as von Sternberg, and the structure to this film is based entirely around that premise. What sets Robinson apart here is that eh's not played for laughs for even a frame. This is a scary, terrible man who by the end I had to pity. No spoilers, but the movie is mercilessly chilling in how these two aspects unseat him.

On the story side the subplot of the newspaper is the film's double edged sword. It's the greatest part of the movie creating not only great visuals, that hanging man which is probably the scariest thing I've seen in a long time, but also a moral tension about the nature of law and order and journalism/ art's responsibility in all of that. Given discussions going on right now about the role of the fourth estate as well as commercial art, news coming out this week about Brooklyn 99 rewriting its new season for example, this plot is more valuable then ever. You can tell the three musketeers of Hetch McArthur and Hawks were especially invested here. McCarthy's suggestion of it being about their battles with Hollywood production heads doesn't seem too crazy with some scenes between the newspaper and Robsinson playing out like behind the scenes pitches. If so though its a very pessimistic view of what the artists of the cinema can look forward to.

With this power and fury it puts into a painful relief how uninteresting the A plot is. Anyone whose seen even just a couple of older films has seen this before with jealousy and a righteous man reforming the moneygrubbing lady so on and so forth. Here it's particularly tired as if everyone ran into a brick wall and decided to just keep it in anyway. I, at least, wasn't invested at all in their scenes and would have liked a version of this film at least sans McCrea.

I don't want to end on a sour note though as I do indeed think this is great so I'll just end by pointing to Walter Brennan first doing his Popeye routine here as absolutely hilarious and perfectly molded despite this being his first big role.

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#235 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:54 pm

knives wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 10:30 am
McCarthy's suggestion of it being about their battles with Hollywood production heads doesn't seem too crazy with some scenes between the newspaper and Robsinson playing out like behind the scenes pitches. If so though its a very pessimistic view of what the artists of the cinema can look forward to.
Reading over that paragraph in the McCarthy book, I didn't think he was referring to only the "battles" and certainly not overwhelmingly gloomy- Although it's only a line or two, and vague enough to be up to interpretation, the focus of his reading seems to start more literally on how Hecht and MacArthur got swept up in the life, including by beautiful women, and then had to deal with the studio bosses to maintain it (after all they immediately rented an entire ranch, partied, and womanized from the start!) I read it as an insolent jab to those who tried to temper their boisterous agendas by villainizing the production heads in a cheeky way, laughing at them through artistic empowerment rather than an angry or pessimistic metaphor.

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#236 Post by senseabove » Tue Jun 30, 2020 4:10 am

Rio Bravo — This miiiight be the movie that made Hawks actually click for me. I'll have to see if it carries over to subsequent new-to-mes and rewatches. He's one of those directors I was surprised to find out, when I did look it up ages ago, that I'd seen a good handful of his movies over the years without even realizing it, many of which I'd liked or even really liked, but which I'd never felt a particularly thrilling or unifying touch to. I'd still be hard-pressed to identify what makes His Girl Friday,To Have and Have Not, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes contiguously Hawksian... But this one kinda made the "invisible style" click with regard to his reliance on a very soft formalism. He lets the viewer's eye and emotions drift, controlling the field of reference, not necessarily their focus. For Rio Bravo, he uses medium and medium full shots in just about everything that isn't a set piece. Plot-wise, even breakpoints are built up very gradually, like the sequence where Colorado finally joins the fray. I don't remember whip-pans or extreme close-ups—occasionally a sharp cut, but even that's usually padded with preemption. Which is maybe all Hawks-as-Auteur 101, but ya know, seeing it vs being told it.

I Was a Male War Bride — All of which is the draft I wrote and stashed away and forgot about until loading up the thread to write a bit about this one, this absolute gem. If I thought Rio Bravo might have been Hawks finally clicking, this one cinched it for sure, and the middling if enjoyable Man's Favorite Sport? was a nice palate cleanser between the two to remind me that I saw what I saw but it didn't always work. (I really am waiting for someone to explain the appeal of anything about Paula Prentiss to me... I just don't see it even with a squint.) To drive the point home while we talked about it after, following the crackling first half, my roommate felt adrift, he said, and slightly disappointed by the slowdown—which I gather is a common experience—while I was marveling at how, just as with Rio Bravo, I was being drawn into the same shift from, yes, a burgeoning restlessness to a relaxed thrill; I could appreciate the beats, now—the third act slowdown, the slow (r)evolutions of relationships, the patient development of a complicated empathy. I'd, as usual, need another round or three to figure out what to say with more detail, and I could imagine it might turn out to be more because of my viewing sequence than the movie's inherent qualities, but this is the one that finally tipped Hawks from the "okay sure yes he's Great and I'll give basically anything a try" category to "oh god maybe I do have to try to see everything by the end of the list window..."

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#237 Post by knives » Tue Jun 30, 2020 6:16 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:54 pm
knives wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 10:30 am
McCarthy's suggestion of it being about their battles with Hollywood production heads doesn't seem too crazy with some scenes between the newspaper and Robsinson playing out like behind the scenes pitches. If so though its a very pessimistic view of what the artists of the cinema can look forward to.
Reading over that paragraph in the McCarthy book, I didn't think he was referring to only the "battles" and certainly not overwhelmingly gloomy- Although it's only a line or two, and vague enough to be up to interpretation, the focus of his reading seems to start more literally on how Hecht and MacArthur got swept up in the life, including by beautiful women, and then had to deal with the studio bosses to maintain it (after all they immediately rented an entire ranch, partied, and womanized from the start!) I read it as an insolent jab to those who tried to temper their boisterous agendas by villainizing the production heads in a cheeky way, laughing at them through artistic empowerment rather than an angry or pessimistic metaphor.
I'm totally just walking with a thrown out idea and making it my own.

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#238 Post by Rayon Vert » Tue Jun 30, 2020 9:43 am

senseabove wrote:
Tue Jun 30, 2020 4:10 am
But this one kinda made the "invisible style" click with regard to his reliance on a very soft formalism. He lets the viewer's eye and emotions drift, controlling the field of reference, not necessarily their focus. For Rio Bravo, he uses medium and medium full shots in just about everything that isn't a set piece.
Nice write-up on the film style! Just happenstance, but a few weeks ago I came upon this short youtube piece using primarily a scene from RIo Bravo to compare the superior art of Hawks (using primarily movement) relative to overuse of the close up in most contemporary films.

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#239 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jun 30, 2020 9:48 pm

McCarthy's rendition of Hawks' discovery and characteristics of Frances Farmer were heartening to read, especially the depth with which he draws her authentic features since her perf in Come and Get It blew away all else for me (and, by no coincidence, solely the earlier scenes Hawks shot). Also interesting are Hawks, Hecht, and MacArther's specific contributions to Gunga Din, a film that I've always liked exactly because it feels so glaringly close to what Hawks was doing around this time, yet I had no idea he had a hand in these very elements!

The stories from the set of Bringing Up Baby are probably the most enjoyable part of the book so far though, especially the suit/dress ripping scene's source story from Grant's personal life, which is so outrageous it makes what we see in the film completely vanilla!

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#240 Post by knives » Wed Jul 01, 2020 8:28 am

Just got to The Road of Glory chapter of the Hawks biography and I have to wonder if he had access to it or the Bernard as he makes it out that they are much more different then they actually are. Whole scenes are lifted for the Hawks

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#241 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jul 01, 2020 9:55 am

knives wrote:
Wed Jul 01, 2020 8:28 am
Just got to The Road of Glory chapter of the Hawks biography and I have to wonder if he had access to it or the Bernard as he makes it out that they are much more different then they actually are. Whole scenes are lifted for the Hawks
I'm sure they did, there's just a lot more talk in the chapter about the idiosyncratic embellishments- though I think it's been established by now how relentless some of these screenwriters worked at in adapting work so quickly (Faulkner and Hecht were madmen) and I can't imagine that comes from pure creative spirit- even if some of their personal ideas bleed in, especially Faulker from his novels.

That and the chapter before are great at highlighting how Hawks transitioned from suicidal acts to going out of his way to eliminate them, and even refraining from defaulting to death in general towards villainous characters like To Have and Have Not and diffusing the finale with Wayne in Red River.

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#242 Post by knives » Wed Jul 01, 2020 9:58 am

I really did like that bit of discussion which highlights what Hawksian sentimentality is.

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#243 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jul 01, 2020 10:07 am

The next two chapters are the best yet (I admittedly stopped after the Bringing Up Baby one, so they're fresh in my mind) because the attention paid to his grooming of Farmer fleshes out what a Hawksian woman would become in detailing his passion for crafting that kind of character, which feels like an outlier from the reserved Hawks we've come to know. And the next chapter is just plain fun stories. Grant and Hepburn sound like so much fun to hang out with.

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#244 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jul 01, 2020 5:47 pm

knives wrote:
Wed Jul 01, 2020 9:58 am
I really did like that bit of discussion which highlights what Hawksian sentimentality is.
And now that I've gotten to Slim, McCarthy's life-imitating-art analysis of how she influenced his '39-'48 period is beautifully revealing for this study. I love studying filmmaker's oeuvres through psychological evolution in their personal lives, as evidenced by my Bogdanovich and -to a more hypothetical degree- Wes Anderson writeups, so this is right up my alley, and succinctly well-argued without needing to do much more than point.

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#245 Post by Rayon Vert » Wed Jul 01, 2020 10:25 pm

Rio Lobo (1st viewing). The contrast here parallels but is even sharper than in El Dorado, with exterior sequences at the beginning that look filmic, and much of what follows often having a television look. I should be grateful that there was less Rio Bravo here than I supposed, although when we come to the inclusion of those elements towards the end it just adds to the general sense of a director without much inspiration or life left. This wasn’t completely awful, but nevertheless still pretty terrible on the whole. Even those early end-of-Civil War sequences felt pretty dead to me. Supposedly they were shot by a second unit (?) – but in any event there wasn’t anything to relate back to Hawks’ style in them. John Wayne was still extremely vital in El Dorado, here he’s as dull and flat as the rest of the movie – it feels like he’s 15 years older, not three. Part of the problem beyond the acting is that his character and all the others are not interesting in the least, they’re almost cardboard cutouts. There’s a new feminine perspective that’s added in small bits in the movie, but it’s not enough to reverse the downward trend.


Barbary Coast (revisit). I quite like the atmosphere, especially the evocation of a really outlaw, filthy civilization outpost that is this mud streeted Frisco (it’s almost a western). It’s entertaining enough, but as with knives & twbb I find it a mixed experience. Full agreement here about the Robinson parts standing out (and yes that hanging visual is quite powerful), and the Hopkins-McCrea dimension and the sentimentality the film develops around them not serving it that well. I find both Hopkins and McCrea to not be that great here, in contrast to Robinson, and the film is also occasionally burdened with surprisingly not quite adequate action scenes, especially following something like Scarface (a fight with punches very clearly not landing, the last shooting looking especially fake). The score can also sometimes be intrusive and ill-fitting.

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#246 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jul 01, 2020 10:44 pm

I didn't like Hopkins here either, and the validation is that apparently nobody who worked on the film did either! It's amusing to read about just how hated she was on the set due to her prima donna tendencies, uncooperative behavior, and the like - even though she was on the more popular side of the political division that manifested on set, with the conservatives holding the majority opinion (at least among the key players) following FDR's election into office.

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Re: Auteur List: Howard Hawks - Discussion and Defenses

#247 Post by knives » Thu Jul 02, 2020 8:57 am

Not content with the content of this list I decided to watch Kenneth Hawks' ineligible for this list Such Men are Dangerous which was his third and his last film as a director. It's very stiff and has a very different energy from Howard. Everyone speaks slowly and deliberately like some art house flick. Baxter is the biggest offender of this slow speech. Still, there's something charming to the film in its weirdness.

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