Douglas Sirk

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rockysds
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#51 Post by rockysds » Sun Feb 06, 2011 2:16 pm

"To New Shores" seems to be a similar situation as the recent "La nuit du carrefour" dvd from Video Dimensions. Has anyone seen/bought this release?

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#52 Post by Hofmeister » Fri Mar 04, 2011 9:29 am

Just took delivery of the new release of SIGN OF THE PAGAN (1954). It's from Koch Media Germany, R2 PAL, SSDL 6.82 GB. Upon cursory inspection the transfers seem okay although Koch have done better (and worse).

The good news is that it contains both the CinemaScope and the Academy version, which do differ a bit in set-ups and editing, thus refuting the assumption that one was derived from the other. Scope runs 88m22s, Academy 88m32s (3.48 and 3.18GB, respectively). Also on board are two trailers (one German, one English) and a gallery.

However, there is one piece of very bad news in that the scope version is not anamorphic. This is contrary to the label's press release (see also http://www.kochmedia-film.de/dvd/detail ... nenkoenig/).

Should this release somehow be cross-referenced to the thread "Aspect Ratio discussion for Magnificent Obsession"? SIGN OF THE PAGAN was mentioned in that thread a few times. [Edit: Went there, did that.]

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#53 Post by evillights » Mon Jul 25, 2011 5:12 pm

Has the "Douglas Sirk Filmmaker Collection" in the US gone out of print?

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domino harvey
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#54 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jul 25, 2011 5:17 pm

Not exactly-- the first pressing of real discs is long gone and has been replaced by burned DVD-Rs. This set is indistinguishable from the first edition without unsealing and looking at the undersides of the discs, as I discovered when I ordered it earlier this year from Movies Unlimited. It is, however, available via there or TCM (same thing) if you still want it in that state.

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#55 Post by evillights » Mon Jul 25, 2011 6:52 pm

domino harvey wrote:Not exactly-- the first pressing of real discs is long gone and has been replaced by burned DVD-Rs. This set is indistinguishable from the first edition without unsealing and looking at the undersides of the discs, as I discovered when I ordered it earlier this year from Movies Unlimited. It is, however, available via there or TCM (same thing) if you still want it in that state.
Thanks very much for the info. I'll throw in TO NEW SHORES and LA NUIT DU CARREFOUR while I'm at it.

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zedz
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#56 Post by zedz » Mon Jul 25, 2011 7:00 pm

I don't know about To New Shores, but I believe it was reported here that Carrefour is not a legit release, but just a boot of the broadcast transfer with the circulating (very good) fansubs coded in. I don't own it, so please correct me if I'm wrong, anybody who does!

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#57 Post by evillights » Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:49 pm

zedz wrote:I don't know about To New Shores, but I believe it was reported here that Carrefour is not a legit release, but just a boot of the broadcast transfer with the circulating (very good) fansubs coded in. I don't own it, so please correct me if I'm wrong, anybody who does!
Indeed. But need a copy. And happy to get behind a legit release of LA NUIT DU CARREFOUR when it seems possible.

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Cold Bishop
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#58 Post by Cold Bishop » Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:55 pm

I actually think its worse than the bootlegs that can be had for free on the internet.

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#59 Post by evillights » Mon Jul 25, 2011 11:02 pm

Cold Bishop wrote:I actually think its worse than the bootlegs that can be had for free on the internet.
I'm not going to watch anything on my 170ºF MacBook Pro, nor join any torrent sites for DL-then-burn.

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zedz
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#60 Post by zedz » Mon Jul 25, 2011 11:09 pm

evillights wrote:Indeed. But need a copy. And happy to get behind a legit release of LA NUIT DU CARREFOUR when it seems possible.
But I don't think this is legit. I think it's just somebody selling what they've lifted from a torrent site, if what I've heard is correct.

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#61 Post by evillights » Tue Jul 26, 2011 12:58 am

zedz wrote:
evillights wrote:Indeed. But need a copy. And happy to get behind a legit release of LA NUIT DU CARREFOUR when it seems possible.
But I don't think this is legit. I think it's just somebody selling what they've lifted from a torrent site, if what I've heard is correct.
Gotcha. Thanks, zedz. I just need a disc copy of the film at present. (Don't want to go on to any torrent sites, really..)

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#62 Post by manicsounds » Sat Dec 03, 2011 7:39 pm

Going to show "Imitation Of Life" at my school to a group, we will see how their reactions are to the movie. So far none of the people who signed up had even heard of the movie or Sirk. It'll be interesting to see their reactions. Of course I will have to introduce the time period the movie takes place in and race relations in America at the time beforehand.

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Since it seems unlikely for a company like Criterion to put this out (As Universal likes to repackage it on DVD, single or double feature, and their last one even had a commentary), but I'm crossing fingers for Masters Of Cinema to release a blu-ray of it sometime in the future, possibly along with the 1934 one.

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#63 Post by jsteffe » Tue Feb 18, 2014 11:38 am

Does anyone know where, if anywhere, I can obtain a copy of the 45-minute documentary "Filmarbeit mit Douglas Sirk" (1987) directed by Gustavo Gräf Marino? Has it ever been released as a supplement on DVD or Blu-ray anywhere? Thanks...

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domino harvey
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#64 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 18, 2014 11:40 am

There is a copy up on back channels recorded off TV in the 80s, but it's not subtitled. PM me if you need further details

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jsteffe
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#65 Post by jsteffe » Tue Feb 18, 2014 11:47 am

Thanks, folks - this is helpful! It looks as if the entire documentary is indeed available on YouTube. Amazing.

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#66 Post by Rayon Vert » Sat Oct 03, 2015 3:41 pm

I'm new to Sirk's films and in the process of going through what's available on dvd. My impression going into them, going from what little I had read about him (Sarris, etc.), was in line with the "subvertor theory". But I've come across Tag Gallagher's 2005 Senses of Cinema article: White Melodrama, which I haven't seen referenced here or in the Written on the Wind/All That Heaven Allows thread, which comes down quite hard on Sirk's original "Champions" and puts forth a completely opposite perspective. I tend to be biased towards Gallagher's views on pretty much anything (!) because of the admiration I have for his work on Rossellini and Ford, but I wonder if Sirkian lovers on this forum have come across his article and have any opinions or reactions to it:
http://sensesofcinema.com/2005/feature-articles/sirk-2/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#67 Post by Gregory » Thu Oct 08, 2015 12:44 pm

I love Sirk and discussing his films, so I've wanted to reply but I'm not sure I'm equal to the task. I feel like I can discuss one or two of his films at a time in the context of his whole career, but his body of work was rich and varied enough apart from the five or six widely discussed melodramas that it's hard to say much about it without devoting at least as much length as the Gallagher piece you've linked. So much that can be rightly said about him has already been expressed in Sirk on Sirk, which I'd recommend that you get if you haven't already—other writings are secondary. And the body of criticism about Sirk has been so broad that it's daunting to comment on all that too. There haven't been many book-length works of criticism on Sirk, but the number of articles is a little overwhelming. Here is a list of links that will probably be helpful.

Many of the foundational writings date from the early ’70s context of theory and criticism, and naturally much of that will seem dated now in various ways—first in a special Sirk-dedicated issue of Screen in ’71 that contained a set of essays that were criticized in Positif in April ’72 and then amended and expanded into an Edinburgh Film Festival book the following year, as well as the appearance of Sirk on Sirk around the same time. And later in the decade there was a special issue of Bright Lights (see the above link). In Gallagher's article, I'm not always sure who is included among the "Champions"—he names Jon Halliday, Thomas Elsaesser, and Michael Stern, and also seems to include Sarris and Fassbinder's writings, but who else? I think my main hesitation about Gallagher's essay is that I can understand why he'd want to argue against many inter-related critical viewpoints as if they formed a single homogeneous school, but I'm not sure they were one. Moreover, I'd want to jettison some claims by the so-called Champions while keeping others.
Others will surely find the ’70s writings so fundamentally flawed that they'll want to try to clear it all away and start again from basics, but even Gallagher's essay (wisely) doesn't go that far.
As an example of not wanting to throw the baby out with the bathwater, I'll give an example from Michael Stern's book, which on the whole contains many good insights, that in this particular case for me seems to point up some of the (occasional) wrongheadedness found in some of the writings discussed here.
In his chapter on Magnificent Obsession, he repeatedly to "purposeful falseness" and then recounts that he had asked Sirk about his use of what seemed like "blatantly poor and unrealistic effects." Sirk's answer:
The moment you go inside the studio, it is dangerous to go out again...You must somehow integrate nature into your story. So you use back projection...."Artificial" used to be a negative word. But every artist today must proceed with a certain artificiality.
Here I understand him to be saying that it was a matter of practicality, having to create a visual world on a sound stage, rather than doing a location shoot and then trying to integrate it with what was shot on set. But then in the very next paragraph, Stern pushes ahead anyway with the thesis that Sirk meant the rear-projection to look jarringly phony, to convey the "absurdity" of people trying to find truth or reality in such an artificial place, and thus "they appear pitiful and foolish."
Gallagher quoted that last part in his essay, and I can agree with the impulse to throw down the gauntlet at the point when a critic treats Sirkian characters condescendingly as myopic fools stuck in self-created problems. If Sirk's characters are products of their particular cultures, unable to "find truth" and even trapped by deeply internalized beliefs and mores, well, aren't we all? It's not about "them" or the benighted 1940s and ’50s but about all of us, just like the Greek tragedies, which is why they remain so significant.


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Re: Douglas Sirk

#69 Post by Drucker » Mon Nov 02, 2015 5:07 pm

Oof, lots of great films to see, all during Xmas week. I thought this was starting a week earlier, will definitely need to find a way to sneak out to this, though it looks like All That Heaven Allows and Mag Obsession are only on Xmas Eve/Day.

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#70 Post by Drucker » Thu May 24, 2018 9:46 am

I caught Imitation Of Life at BAM yesterday and am thrilled the first time I got to see the film was theatrically. Though I've only seen a handful of Sirk films, all from the 1950s, it seems to so perfectly do all the things he is supposed to have done well. His utter refusal to have Turner's character compromise her beliefs at any step of the way and to make her a more "traditional" character is absolutely relentless. There's no dwelling or obsession on her decision-making. It's just one example of how frequently the film refuses to call attention to itself while simultaneously making extraordinary decisions. I constantly found myself catching little camera movements and things to discover in each shot, but was overwhelmed following along the plot.

I started crying during the last time Sarah Jane and Annie meet, and was basically on the verge of tears throughout the rest of the film. The final crane shot is masterful of course as well, ending Sirk's Hollywood career on such a perfect note. If the film had been struggling to move us to a place where all is resolved, and everything gets better, it obviously would have been a lesser film (though I don't know what happens in the source material). Sirk's ability to balance the racial tensions with the need to keep the film so focused on the heartbreaking decisions each of its lead characters continue to make is sensational, and it's what gives the film it's power. I seriously can't stop thinking about this film.

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#71 Post by Lost Highway » Thu May 24, 2018 12:47 pm

When Sarah last meets her mother is also when I first reach for a handkerchief. From there I steadily work myself into a state of hysterical grief. No other movie gets me like this one.

Shame they Blu-ray isn’t better. It’s just about watchable but there are some odd choices in terms of aspect ratio and color.

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#72 Post by soundchaser » Fri Mar 27, 2020 2:49 pm

I’ve taken advantage of being stuck at home to continue my trek through Sirk’s filmography, and I thought I would do a little write-up in the films from his unsung middle period, when he was essentially a utility director at Universal. I adore his melodramas, which I often find sincerely moving and visually sublime. How do the rest of these films fare? Well...

Slightly French
A rough start! I gave this two stars on Letterboxd, but I’m not sure it actually deserves that many. Don Ameche’s performance is frustratingly one-note, which makes Dorothy Lamour’s attraction to him completely bizarre. We’re not really given a reason to like him, so why should anyone in the world of the film? Lubitsch’s Heaven Can Wait serves as a useful counterpoint: there, too, Ameche plays a cad, but he remains charming in spite of it because of the nuances is his performance. Here all of that depth is stripped away, leaving...well, just a jerk from beginning to end. There are brief hints that he’s jealous for the first time in his life, but he doesn’t learn anything from his new feelings, they’re just noted by other characters. To be succinct: this is a comedy that elicited one laugh at most, which is tantamount to a cardinal sin. (It’s also technically not a Universal film, but I did watch it and thought it merited a mention here as it’s of a type with the rest.)

Mystery Submarine
I suspect in a month I’ll have forgotten most of the plot and characters of this film (it doesn’t help that I watched it right after Fuller’s submarine movie Hell and High Water, which I also didn’t much care for). There’s really not much here worth mentioning other than an initial flashback that borders on the surreal in its framing and lighting. Other than that, a bog-standard submarine adventure picture with some evil Germans doing something or other, accusations of treason, etc. I’m genuinely struggling to write anything else about it, because it doesn’t leave the slightest impression. I’m not alone here: Sirk didn’t seem to remember much about it. It may be the most uninterested I’ve been in a movie all year. Even the title is boring!

(In between these two is The First Legion — not a Universal film. I plan to go back and watch it at some point, but I haven’t yet.)

Thunder on the Hill
“It would do your soul good to be wrong once in a while.” How do you admit to your imperfections without being drowned by them? How do you determine guilt or innocence in someone else if you aren’t sure of your own? Is the road to hell really paved with good intentions? Big questions, which Sirk tackles here with aplomb. It’s nice to have a film in this period with actual stakes — or at least the same weight found in Sirk’s later melodramas. The moodiness of the flood that provides the impetus for the plot and the archness of the convent setting provide Sirk with plenty of opportunity to create striking visuals (a blessed relief, given the bland look of most of these films), and Claudette Colbert and Ann Blyth play off each other well. The script is tight, with comedic character bits paying off in the plot in big ways, and a push and pull between the forces of justice and the tenderness of mercy that makes a single person’s life feel like a vast spiritual battleground. The flood that opens the movie is itself Biblical: not only does it have its literary precedent in the Noah story, but Colbert speculates that God used it as a way to gather all the principle characters at the convent. It’s also a flood that allows the sin of the past to be washed away: even the murderer emerges from the long night with a newfound clarity. This is what I mean when I say the film has weight — it is ultra-signified in the way the best Sirk is. This isn’t without its problems, unfortunately, chief among them the underdeveloped romance plot, but it’s still worth seeing. It’s moving, sincere, and (relatively) deep.

The Lady Pays Off
Very much a mixed bag — starts off promisingly, with more laughs than Slightly French and a setup that actually gives its characters a drive beyond money or marriage. Unfortunately this quickly descends into a less successful Parent Trap, with a hiking trip gone sour, a scheming daughter, and a housekeeper with a wry sense of humor. All of which is to say the tropes here aren’t terribly original. What makes a film like The Parent Trap work is our investment, not only in seeing the couple together but in cheering as the wicked could-be-stepmother gets her comeuppance. Here that foe for the man’s affections is...basically nothing. She doesn’t particularly like hiking, and she’s got a lot of suitcases (which presumably tells us she’s vain?), but beyond that we’re not given a reason to root against her other than her being a narrative block. The way she disappears from the film is so perfunctory that it removes any narrative weight she could ever have had. Utterly baffling. The climax is equally nonsensical, but by the time it rolls around it’s hard to care.

Week-End With Father
In a desperate attempt to find some auteurist touch here: Sirk definitely has a penchant for making blondes his villains in this period — and in this one we even get a strapping blond camp counselor to balance things out! Another slight relationship comedy, with a half-decent, Bob Hope-esque central performance from Van Heflin. (I do love him calling someone a “prime specimen of an anthropoid” with a straight face.) Interesting in how it prefigures There’s Always Tomorrow, placing father/children relationships at the forefront of the narrative, but unsurprisingly nowhere near as interesting or moving. And there’s a weird...I hesitate to say “sexual” tension between the main child actors: they’re meant to be fighting like siblings, but there’s a bizarre subplot involving jealousy that makes it seem like they’re romantically interested in each other. It’s meant to mirror the main plot, but it comes across as very, very misguided. Though I think by this point I’d developed Stockholm syndrome, because I was chuckling at lines like “keep yourself alert with yoghurt for dessert!”

No Room for the Groom
This is ostensibly a comedy, but it belongs to that rare unnamed genre of film in which everybody is just absolutely unbearable, and the plot could easily be avoided if literally anyone would budge a little from their preconceived ideologies. Tony Curtis and a very young Piper Laurie Star as newlyweds who, for various reasons, do not have the chance to consummate their marriage. Hilarity theoretically ensues when Curtis moves in with his in-laws — who don’t know that their daughter has eloped. I watched this a while ago and don’t remember a lot about the details, other than a briefly amusing bit of physical comedy from Curtis trying to hide in a bathroom. Everyone is stubborn about their mores (even when those are built on a lie, as they are in the case of Laurie’s supposed teetotaler mother who hides whisky bottles in her dresser), and had any of the characters sat down and attempted to talk to each other, the whole thing could have been solved in about five minutes. Quite frustrating.

Has Anybody Seen My Gal?
The diamond in this comedy rough — the contrary manifestation of the same energies present in All That Heaven Allows, and not just because it’s Sirk’s first time working with Rock Hudson. He’s fantastic here, even if he gets less screen time than you’d imagine given his top billing. The real hero of the film is Charles Coburn, who puts in an absolutely delightful central performance as the millionaire determined to will his money to a deserving family. His brief stint as a soda jerk (“strawberry surprise!”) and his platonic relationship with Piper Laurie (who fares much better here than she did in the last film) are equal parts heartwarming and hilarious, but society as a whole cannot abide either of them. It’s the latter that gets him into trouble with the townsfolk, who suspect him of being in love with her. This plot doesn’t feel miles removed from the one in All That Heaven Allows, with gossip and scandal the order of the day, but in this case it’s even more ridiculous, since there’s no romance going on. Much like in that picture, the magic of Sirk’s use of color is evident from the start. This is the first of these films in which his mise-en-scène could be described as “masterful”: the incredible difference between the family’s original house and the lavish one they move to is apparent not just in their set design but in the way they’re framed and shot. Kudos for the ending, too, which feels both earned and surprising. This is the most well-known of these films for good reason: it’s far and away the best. (Although Coburn’s dancing alone is enough to justify its existence.)

Meet Me At the Fair
Well, there’s no doubt this is a folk musical, starting as it does with a traveling medicine huckster and his black companion singing “Oh! Susanna.” One Letterboxd review calls this “a paean and critique of the performative nature of social masquerades,” and while I’m not sure it’s as clever as all that, I do think there’s at least something going on here. Everyone is lying from the word go, and the ultimate question I think the film asks is “to what extent does it matter?” Doc Tilbee’s lies to the young boy he takes under his wing are obviously ridiculous, but they also make him the most charismatic person in the film. We’re drawn in to his escalations just as everyone is when he sells his “medicine.” On the other hand, the orphanage the boy escapes from lies about how it spends its budget, keeps bars on the windows, and is just generally shady. So what’s the difference between these lies? In a way, the same thematic resonance exists here that does in Thunder on the Hill — “It’s a question of the law!” is immediately followed up with “it’s a question of the heart.” Heady stuff for a fairly goofy musical. Unfortunately, that goofiness is overwhelming, and not in a good way. The central child actor’s performance is just outright terrible (did we really need him to sing “Ave Maria”?), and Scatman Crothers does little to acquit himself from the stereotypes he’s saddled with. I don’t think the songs are all that great, either, which drags the whole thing down a lot. (There’s one sequence about halfway through that’s a lot of fun, but it’s an exception.) The production design is unusually drab, but I admit that could be a result of the questionable rip I had access to. I hesitate to call this a *good* film, but it’s at least an interesting one if you’re willing to look hard enough.

Take Me To Town
The first collaboration between Sirk and producer Ross Hunter, who would go in to be involved in the more famous melodramas soon after. Ann Sheridan plays Vermillion O’Toole, a notorious saloon dancer on the run from a federal marshal. This film immediately has more personality than most others on this list — it feels less stuffed with comedy clichés. The reveal that O’Toole is in handcuffs is fun, as is her jumping off the train. And then not long after we’re given a fantastically lazy ticket salesman who opens his door with a pull string and lets people pay on an honor system. That’s not to say that it’s a fantastic film, alas: it takes a nosedive once we actually get to the eponymous town, with an annoying trio of child actors gallivanting about being generally insufferable. But Sirk’s use of color works a lot better here than it does in Meet Me at the Fair — it’s appropriately rust-tinged, but not overwhelmingly brown and gray. (O’Toole took her name from her shock of vermillion hair.) And he shows some directorial verve, framing those annoying children in interesting diagonals and using his trademark shadows more frequently. Like the previous film I don’t think this is particularly good, but it does at least hew a little closer.

(All I Desire is next, followed by Taza, Son of Cochise. Tonally the latter might fit in with these, but I’m waiting for Kino’s Blu-Ray release this summer to give it a look.)

So what can we take away from this exercise? Mainly the notion that auteurism is suspect at best. With the exception of the more melodramatic elements of Thunder on the Hill and the usage of color in the later films, there’s very little of the Sirk most people know to be found here. He dismissed most of these pictures later in life, and I don’t blame him — barring two notable exceptions, they’re pretty lousy. Sirk’s often considered a master of lighting, and I don’t disagree with that claim, but most of the above are lit so generically that when something interesting was done with shadows it actually made me sit up and pay attention. Not really a good sign. When the comedy’s not good (and it frequently isn’t), there isn’t much to keep anyone’s attention. The best I can say about most of these is that they’re pleasant, harmless, and mercifully short. I’m glad I can check them off my list, but I doubt anything will compel me back to them soon. Thank God the melodrama would soon make a reappearance in Sirk’s repertoire — had it not, I don’t think we’d still be talking about him today.

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#73 Post by Rayon Vert » Sat Mar 28, 2020 10:37 am

Very thorough and interesting write-up of a less known period of Sirk, thanks.

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#74 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Mar 28, 2020 1:34 pm

I wrote up thoughts on Has Anybody Seen My Gal? in the 50s thread but glad to see another recruit to what I think is easily Sirk’s best film and perhaps the finest comedy of the decade. The restraint to exploit the truth is fitting with Sirk’s brand of anti-cathartic melodrama that finds release in other honest spaces, and provides hope that we can experience solace detached from the sharpest forms of justice allowing a flexibility of satisfaction few social portraits have the eye to do. The film’s greatest strength is that Sirk laughs at it all along the way, which is the best tool one can have when assessing life circumstances through alternative paths toward humility, which is difficult to do without the lubricant of comedy.

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#75 Post by Bob Furmanek » Mon May 11, 2020 3:07 pm

Students of Douglas Sirk and Russell Metty might find this article of interest. It concerns their mise-en-scène and the new challenges of stereosocopic cinematography and widescreen compositions on their 1953 production TAZA, SON OF COCHISE.

http://www.3dfilmarchive.com/taza-son-of-cochise

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