95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

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Tribe
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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#26 Post by Tribe » Wed Aug 05, 2009 8:47 pm

david hare wrote:For a start there's the basic premise that Sirk himself particularly enjoyed the form of melodrama, although he obviosuly discirminated between what was useful and what was beyond the pale. So that even an entirely "superficial" reading of these pictures should yield enough emotional engagement to make the films come alive for "average" audiences. The rest is then a bonus, a goldmine for analysis, and I really do NOT want to see yet another wide ranging discussion which simply gets lost in the dubious politics of a Sirk as "Subvertor" thread.
Good point, David. I, for one, became aware of Sirk primarily as a result of the critical theorizing behind his work. While I've enjoyed his movies as a result of that, unfortunately it's difficult for me to see beyond that at times. That's too bad because, as you note, his movies are actually quite entertaining as pure melodrama, and, as Schrek notes, purely as cinema.

I'm not saying melodrama is exactly my cup of tea, but I find I can enjoy Sirk's movies. In movies like the ones that are the topic for this thread Sirk's primary characters are sufficiently fleshed out that I actually find myself giving a shit about them, notwithstanding I'd ordinarily just snicker at other period melodrama.

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#27 Post by puxzkkx » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:17 pm

I saw "Written on the Wind" before learning of Sirk's critical reappraisal and it didn't work for me at all. I read up on him after learning that, as a cineaste, I "should have liked" that film, and I saw "Imitation of Life" knowing his current popularity in cineaste circles, and it still didn't work for me. I saw "All That Heaven Allows" later, and found it mildly engaging, but I still felt suffocated by the tone.

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#28 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:21 pm

My taste with regard to Sirk is all over the map, but the one constant is that I've never stopped hating Written on the Wind. I'm not convinced it has much value as a Sirk litmus test

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#29 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:49 pm

puxzkkx wrote:I saw "Written on the Wind".. I read up on him after learning that, as a cineaste, I "should have liked" that film,.
Never ever buy into garbage like that. Either that author you're reading is worthless, or your reading of it is flawed. There's not a film or a director out there that demands a favorable response. You're 'required' to pass a civil service exam if you want a job w the city. You're required to pass your driving test if you want to get behind the wheel of a car legally. There's not a single film that you're required to like to "become" a cineaste.

...except Jean Epstein of course.

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#30 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:58 pm

Actual students of film know that "liking" a film is relatively meaningless, with the experience of having seen the film and being able to draw from it counting for more than personal subjective reactions-- maybe the author was saying something closer to that?

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#31 Post by puxzkkx » Thu Aug 06, 2009 12:24 am

HerrSchreck wrote:
puxzkkx wrote:I saw "Written on the Wind".. I read up on him after learning that, as a cineaste, I "should have liked" that film,.
Never ever buy into garbage like that. Either that author you're reading is worthless, or your reading of it is flawed. There's not a film or a director out there that demands a favorable response. You're 'required' to pass a civil service exam if you want a job w the city. You're required to pass your driving test if you want to get behind the wheel of a car legally. There's not a single film that you're required to like to "become" a cineaste.

...except Jean Epstein of course.
I completely agree with you. Unfortunately in a lot of cinephile circles, and especially in some web communities, if you don't like the 'canon' you're shunned.

I also agree with you domino - there's a lot of films I can't say I liked but nevertheless learned something from or found something challenging/interesting in - but as far as I can see 'Written on the Wind' is schlock all across the board (and it didn't help that Sirk hired three of the least capable mainstream actors of the day - Bacall, Malone and Stack).

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#32 Post by puxzkkx » Thu Aug 06, 2009 1:18 am

After finding out that WotW was highly regarded, I looked at it again (just skimming), read a few articles and made up my mind that it was still tripe. Basically my major complaint is a lack of depth here, and an attention to visuals at the expense of story or direction for the actors. And all the reading of 'symbolism' in the film seems to me to be reaching. The film shows a visual flair but its basically a selection of overcooked themes in an undercooked package.

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#33 Post by Highway 61 » Thu Aug 06, 2009 3:16 am

david hare wrote:I really welcome dicussion on Sirk, especially by reltive "newbies" to him very much in terms of how much we can finally GET AWAY from all that insistence on "subversion" and the rest of the socio political baggage that had the effect of overwhelming what actual cinephilic impact Mulvey and Wollen had on discussions of Sirk in the 70s revival period.

For a start there's the basic premise that Sirk himself particularly enjoyed the form of melodrama, although he obviosuly discirminated between what was useful and what was beyond the pale. So that even an entirely "superficial" reading of these pictures should yield enough emotional engagement to make the films come alive for "average" audiences. The rest is then a bonus, a goldmine for analysis, and I really do NOT want to see yet another wide ranging discussion which simply gets lost in the dubious politics of a Sirk as "Subvertor" thread.

As to queer textings, the simple addition of both Ross Hunter and Rock (via henry Willson's casting Couch stable of Universla hunkos) is sufficient to allow Sirk to play with gay text and subtext readings. The level to which you can or might do this is up to you.

This all reminds me of furious arguments that used to rage about the Red evening dress Jane wears to the Country Club with Rock first time. The Mulvey camp, as I recall insisted it carried a range of symbolism way beyond its quite clear expression of jane's first expression of going out after widowhood. The Mulveyits turned it basically into an attack on American Orthodoxy. Let's not do that here.
This is really encouraging to read, David, as my admiration of Sirk is more along these lines. I particularly enjoy how Sirk creates visually expressive films without resorting to the tricks favored obsequiously by contemporary American filmmakers, e.g., rapid cutting and dizzying camera movement. In Sirk I see an almost Gilded Age level appreciation for interiors, fashion, and poise, and, of course, this attention to detail manifests itself in Sirk's wonderful mise-en-scène. I know nothing of his biography, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Sirk had trained as an artist or had a thorough education in art history. His work truly feels to me like a John Singer Sargent canvas projected onto the big screen and brought to life. And like Sargent, the common criticism of his work has always been that he is "too facile." Now, I'm not sure what end Sirk's beautiful imagery achieves, if any, but on an entirely personal level, this facility with composition is one of the highest pleasures of the movies.

I'd like to say more about Sirk, specifically his pacing in All That Heaven Allows, which strikes me as the beat-for-beat template of the modern prestige picture, so much so that I wonder if it might be the ideal gateway into classical American cinema for the viewer who finds movies of the period too slow, but it's been too long since my last viewing to offer a detailed outline of the structure.

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#34 Post by mikkelmark » Thu Aug 06, 2009 7:17 am

All That Heaven Allows is a love story melodrama that women of the 50'ies liked very much. It's also a critique of the a way of society that's pretty much still here. Living your life based on how other people expect you to. Even though Carrie lives in their society, she's already partly a stranger from it, she does not go to the country club, and does not want a television. They can accept Harvey as her new man, even though he's much older, but not Ron who's just that much younger. It's Carries kids that makes her conform. The scene where her daughter has just had a quarrel at the library and says something like:"I know I'm not supposed to care about what other people think, but I care so much mom", states the point perfectly. Carries son is a picture of the perfect drone, in my eyes persuing a meaningless life. Ron is an existentialist that lives his life, without caring about what other thinks about him. He even has a protege, former Manhattan commercial something, that after having seen Ron, has turned his way of live around. The protege explains how they were persuing all kinds of securities, because they thought it would make them happy, and after seeing Ron that had none of those and is still happy, they had to reconsider. Basically the entire movie, is to make people watching the movie reconsider, in the same way. Sirk was influented by Brecht, who thought you could use culture to make people smarter on life, instead of just as entertainment.

I think the mise en scene just supports, what you can see by watching the movie, and not thinking about the mise en scene. Whatever Sirk wants said is also done by the characters, and the mise in scene just amplifies it.

Hope this makes any sense, and that I'm not just stating the obvious.

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#35 Post by Dylan » Wed Dec 26, 2012 10:25 pm

I was reading over this thread and wanted to chime in a bit on the discussion about "Hollywood endings" and Sirk.

Sirk's cinema is about serious issues but has a surface melodrama or glossiness to it, even an odd sense of humor. Like when the deer appears at the window, it's both a beautiful image but also over the top & false in a way and I think Sirk knows it. He's not trying to put one over on us but to tell us that cinema tries to put one over on us & we shouldn't buy it. He wants us to both take it in as an image of real beauty and as a symbol of Nature's approval in terms of the story but then at the same time he wants us to see it as artificial, as cinema creating happy endings that aren't quite real. He's not the only one to play this kind of Brechtian trick but he's a real master of it.

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#36 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:32 am

That is a neat analysis which I agree with. I guess it also subliminally links the film itself and the creation of cinematic beauty with the more obvious critique of television as a limiting medium and the social heirarchy trying to create perfect and ordered worlds for people to lose themselves in. Perhaps to suggest that shorthands and conventions should always be viewed with a degree of suspicion. Too good to be true often can be.

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#37 Post by giovannii84 » Wed Aug 21, 2013 10:04 pm

We need these on BluRay

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#38 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 21, 2013 10:09 pm

Image

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#39 Post by knives » Wed Aug 21, 2013 10:11 pm

That's way better then what I was going to post.

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#40 Post by Gregory » Wed Aug 21, 2013 11:11 pm

Well, if sex is covered in the primary tier, then "sexual intimacy" is redundant in the tertiary one, and the opening there should obviously be filled in with Douglas Sirk Blu-rays (which I "Love" and which "Belong" in my Blu-ray player).

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#41 Post by knives » Wed Aug 21, 2013 11:14 pm

Not to get into a boring argument, but he is saying that the loving aspects of sex are more important to have than the functional (reproduction) aspects.

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#42 Post by Gregory » Wed Aug 21, 2013 11:19 pm

I was kidding. But I'll point out just the same that the idea is that the higher tiers are less important or urgent than the ones below, not more. (And the whole thing is a combination of the obvious and the scientifically dubious anyway.)

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#43 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Aug 21, 2013 11:22 pm

I don't think 'less important' is really apt, just less immediately necessary for survival. The higher you go, the more you get into all the 'what makes us human' kind of stuff.

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#44 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 21, 2013 11:22 pm

Thanks for ruining this, everyone

The "sex" on the bottom is sexual gratification which is not necessarily the same thing as sexual intimacy. Worth noting of course that sexual gratification doesn't necessarily need a partner, either! And Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is read from the bottom up. The higher you get, the less immediate/pressing the need and the less-likely it's been fulfilled properly. The entire concept is predicated on fulfilling all of the needs on the lowest level and then working your way up level by level. Any needs you skip on your way up are what cause psychological disorders big and small. This methodology is no longer accepted by psychologists but I use it and Murray's Psychogenic Needs with my students to help them recognize character motivations in texts [/teacher]

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#45 Post by knives » Wed Aug 21, 2013 11:27 pm

domino harvey wrote: [/teacher]
[/contrarian by profession]

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#46 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Aug 21, 2013 11:28 pm

I wonder if you could make a chart inversely relating box office success and how high in the pyramid the need your characters are trying to fulfill is...

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#47 Post by onedimension » Thu Aug 22, 2013 12:24 am

Whether or not Sirk was 'subversive', my sense was that he made uniquely good melodramas that built their emotional heights/excesses on real social problems and conflicts.. is that something that made his films distinct from other melodramas or 'women's pictures' from the same period? I assume so, but I don't know that genre at all.

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#48 Post by jindianajonz » Thu Aug 22, 2013 10:18 am

matrixschmatrix wrote:I wonder if you could make a chart inversely relating box office success and how high in the pyramid the need your characters are trying to fulfill is...
It's tough to say, considering Maslow left "a bigger boat" off the chart.

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#49 Post by Gregory » Thu Aug 22, 2013 4:38 pm

onedimension wrote:Whether or not Sirk was 'subversive', my sense was that he made uniquely good melodramas that built their emotional heights/excesses on real social problems and conflicts.. is that something that made his films distinct from other melodramas or 'women's pictures' from the same period? I assume so, but I don't know that genre at all.
I believe that All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind are unique, two films that are distinctive from other melodramas and quite different from each other. (It's always seemed to me that I'm in a small minority that appreciates Written so much.) Magnificent Obsession, for me, belongs in a lower tier of his work—it's Sirk trying to create something of significance within the framework of a pretty silly Christian novel (the idea of the book being that good deeds, done in secret, achieve not just the good that results from them but also some kind of spiritual power that repays the doer), with only partial success.

But the point I wanted to make is that Sirk certainly does not stand alone in making rich, complex "women's films." In Hollywood alone, there were outstanding films by Sternberg, Ophüls, King Vidor, Cukor, Wyler, etc. but mainly by directors who would not generally be listed among the great auteurs and who may have only made one or two great women's films. One can stumble into them by watching films starring a lot of the great female stars who tended to play strong characters: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, and more. There are quite a few that show women constrained within rigidly circumscribed roles as women, mothers, and members of "society" but also shows them asserting themselves against these limitations, and in subtle ways undermines the legitimacy of these social and cultural codes, even if the film cannot take these ideas to their conclusions in the resolution of the story.

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Re: 95-96 All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind

#50 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Aug 23, 2013 8:06 am

That leads to the interesting 'chicken or egg' question of whether the directors were only able to make "women's pictures" by the number of great female stars of the era needing strong roles that would inevitably focus on the female character as the key figure; or whether the presence of such directors with an interest and aptitude for this genre provided the structure that attracted and built up the fame of their female stars so much, due to the quality of the material available to them?

Or whether there was a third reason due to the studio system, such as a shift in production to target a specific audience demographic, with both directors and actors being 'assigned' specific kinds of pictures?

A discussion about and further research into this subject is one of the reasons why I would certainly back a "women's pictures" genre project in the future.

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