Friday, June 26, 2009

Magnificent Obsession

I've been writing about Douglas Sirk for eight years now, so I thought it might be a good idea to create a blog post with a couple of links and a short profile. As I get—or create—more opportunities to write about this amazing auteur, I plan to add them to this entry.

Reel News:
Douglas Sirk - In Praise of Melodrama

Criterion Collection - Magnificent Obsession

And this piece for the Northwest
Film Forum's 10th anniversary book:

Douglas Sirk once noted, "There is a very short distance be-
tween high art and trash." Mentor to Rainier Werner Fassbinder
and inspiration to Todd Haynes, few filmmakers from the but-
toned-down 1950s have influenced independent cinema more.

His intelligent, theatrical approach also lives on through Pedro

Almodóvar and François Ozon. Unlike his cinematic progeny,
however, Sirk played by the rules, but there's more going on in his
meticulous melodramas than meets the eye—note the Brechtian
use of mirrors, television screens, and other reflective surfaces.

From 1952-59, he hit the peak of his powers, using the user-
friendly form of the "woman's weepie" to comment on race (Im-
itation of Life), conformity (All That Heaven Allows), and oth-

er matters beyond the usual genre perimeters, while coaxing
performances out of matinee idols, like Robert Stack (Written
on the Wind) and Rock Hudson (Magnificent Obsession), that
few believed possible, yet the proof lives right there on the
screen—sometimes even in glorious CinemaScope.

[Slightly revised from the original text.]

Endnote: Now that I've familiarized myself with most of the
films Sirk made with Hudson, I plan to seek out the ones he made
with George Sanders, to whom he offers the highest of praise in the
interview that accompanies the Magnificent Obsession DVD. Im-
age of the helmer on the Heaven set with Hudson, Jane Wy-
man, and Agnes Moorhead from The Criterion Current.

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