Douglas Sirk

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Scharphedin2
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Douglas Sirk

#1 Post by Scharphedin2 » Tue Jun 03, 2008 6:10 pm

Douglas Sirk / Detlef Sierck (1897 - 1987)



Filmography

Zwei Genies* (1934)

Das Mädchen vom Moorhof* (1935)

Der Eingebildete Kranke* (1935)

Dreimal Ehe* (1935)

April, April!* (1935)

Stützen der Gesellschaft* (1935)

La chanson du souvenir* (1936)

’t was een april* (1936)

Schlussakkord* (1936)

Das Hofkonzert* (1936) Black Hill (R2 DE)

Zu neuen Ufern* (1937) Universum (R2 DE) - included in Zarah Leander Collection

La Habanera* (1937) Kino (R1) / Universum (R2 DE) - included in Zarah Leander Collection

Boefje* (1939)

Hitler’s Madman (1943)

Summer Storm (1944)

A Scandal in Paris (1946) Kino (R1) / Aventi (R2 FR)

Lured (1947) Kino (R1) - also included in Glamour Girls Box Set

Sleep, My Love (1948) - ArtHaus (R2 DE)

Shockproof (1949) - tbr as part of Sony Pictures' The Sam Fuller Film Collection

Slightly French (1949)

Mystery Submarine (1950)

The First Legion (1951)

Thunder on the Hill (1951)

The Lady Pays Off (1951)

Week-End with Father (1951)

No Room for the Groom (1952) Carlotta (R2 FR) - Douglas Sirk: Coffret 2 comédies

Has Anybody Seen My Gal? (1952) Universal (R1) - included in Rock Hudson: Screen Legend - The Franchise Collection / Carlotta (R2 FR) - Douglas Sirk: Coffret 2 comédies

Meet Me at the Fair (1953)

Take Me to Town (1953)

All I Desire (1953) Carlotta (R2 FR) - included in Coffret Douglas Sirk, Partie 2 / Koch Media (R2 DE) - as part of Douglas Sirk Collection / Madman (R4 AU)

Taza, Son of Cochise (1954) Sidonis (R2 FR) - also included in Cochise, un chef de légende - Coffret 3 films

Magnificent Obsession (1954) Criterion (R1) / Carlotta (R2 FR) - included in Coffret Douglas Sirk / Madman (R4 AU)

Sign of the Pagan (1954)

Captain Lightfoot (1955) Carlotta (R2 FR)

All That Heaven Allows (1955) Criterion (R1) / Carlotta (R2 FR) - included in Coffret Douglas Sirk / Madman (R4 AU)

There’s Always Tomorrow (1956) Koch Media (R2 DE) - included in Douglas Sirk Collection / Carlotta (R2 FR) - included in Coffret Douglas Sirk, Partie 2 / Madman (R4 AU)

Written on the Wind (1956) Criterion (R1) / Carlotta (R2 FR)

Battle Hymn (1957) Universal (R1) / Universal (R2 FR)

Interlude (1957) Koch Media (R2 DE) - included in Douglas Sirk Collection / Carlotta (R2 FR) - included in Coffret Douglas Sirk, Partie 2

The Tarnished Angels (1958) Carlotta (R2 FR) - included in Coffret Douglas Sirk, Partie 2 / Madman (R4 AU)

A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958) Carlotta (R2 FR) - included in Coffret Douglas Sirk / Masters of Cinema (R2 UK) / Madman (R4 AU)

Imitation of Life (1959) Universal (R1) -- also as double feature with John M. Stahl's original version / Carlotta (R2 FR) - included in Coffret Douglas Sirk / Madman (R4 AU)

Sprich zu mir wie der Regen (1976)

Silvesternacht – Ein Dialog (1978)

Bourbon Street Blues (1979)

* Signed as Detlef Sierck


Bibliography

Jon Halliday: Sirk on Sirk (Secker and Warburg 1971)


Web Resources

Fred Camper

sensesofcinema

Bright Lights

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Gregory
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#2 Post by Gregory » Wed Jun 03, 2009 3:43 pm

I've been meaning to suggest these additions for quite awhile:

A Scandal in Paris has been released in R1 by Kino.
Sleep My Love is available from Germany under the title "Schlingen der Angst."
No Room for the Groom and Has Anybody Seen my Gal are in one of the French Gaumont Coffrets Douglas Sirk.
Has Anybody Seen my Gal can also be bought as an individual disc from Universal UK.
Battle Hymn is out in R1 from Universal.

There are others that could be listed from UK and French box sets if one were aiming for total completeness.

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HerrSchreck
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#3 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Jun 03, 2009 4:10 pm

You should have waited until 5:10pm, which would have been the year anniversary of the original post.

At first when I read that I thought Scharph had just put his post up since the date looked the same.. I was like-- "You've been meaning to suggest these additions for quite awhile??-- how long, an hour?"

Then I realized.

And I moved on.

(clears throat)


............................

Why's it so quiet in here?

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Scharphedin2
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#4 Post by Scharphedin2 » Wed Jun 03, 2009 4:47 pm

Gregory wrote:I've been meaning to suggest these additions for quite awhile:

A Scandal in Paris has been released in R1 by Kino.
Sleep My Love is available from Germany under the title "Schlingen der Angst."
No Room for the Groom and Has Anybody Seen my Gal are in one of the French Gaumont Coffrets Douglas Sirk.
Has Anybody Seen my Gal can also be bought as an individual disc from Universal UK.
Battle Hymn is out in R1 from Universal.

There are others that could be listed from UK and French box sets if one were aiming for total completeness.
Thanks for pointing this out, Gregory. You are right, there are a lot of titles missing from the "DVD-ography," and there are even a few more older titles released in Germany than the ones you mention, albeit without English subtitles.

I think I threw this up quickly together with the help of David Hare, and intended to come back and finish it later, then had one of my absences from the forum, and it passed into the realm of the forgotten. I will try to finish the work sometime soon.

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#5 Post by david hare » Wed Jun 03, 2009 6:04 pm

Scharphe we've both been absent a lot lately.

I am in dire need of a viewable copy of Schlussakord which might at least enable me to make some comment on his German period. I know there's one up at a certain place but it's both unsubbed and unwatchable. Meanwhile I have four German titles and am nearly ready to say something about his first "period". Maybe somebody else could chime in?

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Gregory
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#6 Post by Gregory » Wed Jun 03, 2009 6:13 pm

Thanks for putting it together.
I can confirm that the subtitles on the German Sleep, My Love are removable, by the way. If there's anything else I can do, shoot me a PM.
David wrote:Meanwhile I have four German titles and am nearly ready to say something about his first "period". Maybe somebody else could chime in?
In addition to La Habanera, I've seen Zu Neuen Ufern. Have you had the chance to watch the latter?

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david hare
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#7 Post by david hare » Wed Jun 03, 2009 7:26 pm

Yes I have a good TVrip. Also have la Habanera, Das Madchen vom Moorhof and Pillars of Society.

The latter if nothing else forces you to recall that, like Ophuls, Sirk had directed dozens if not hundreds of plays before making movies. He seems to come straight to film as an instinctive auteur, like Ophuis. Schlussakord looks tantalizing from the stills, like a precursor of There's Always Tomorrow with the children and the highly composed Toy scenes, but with an entirely different thematic emphasis. Zu Neuen Ufern is possibly the most improbable material to be turned into (at least part) melodrama - Zarah of course has two numbers, and the aboriginal "chorus girls" are a sight to behold (blackface a l'Allemagne!) Habanera is a great picture - begins with an exhilarating serpentine crane shot that rises to capture an outdoors Latin Dance, and the camera simultaneously "captures" Zarah and the audience. The anti capitalist subtext is more than just a reflection of the screenplay, and simply cannot be seen as some sort of pro National Socialist propaganda.

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Scharphedin2
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#8 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sat Jun 06, 2009 9:13 am

I updated the initial post with available DVD editions of Sirk's films. If anything is missing let me know.

Schlussakkord indeed looks like a great film, and the copy floating around on the internet is basically unviewable. I made an attempt this winter, but the quality coupled with the lack of subs made me decide to hold on with this particular film. I do remember one very exciting scene (that made me think of Borzage's I'll Always Love You) in which the same symphony is being played at once in America and Germany, and the scene almost suggesting some kind of emotional telepathy through the common experience of the music by people in separate places.

It would be great to read your comments on Sirk's early career, David!

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Gregory
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#9 Post by Gregory » Sat Jun 06, 2009 12:12 pm

^ Not only a kind of emotional telepathy, perhaps, but also a creative connection, showing the fascination he and many other German artists had with culture from the U.S., especially filmmaking. One reason I wish I could see the rest of his German films to see how often America turns up, in general -- seems like a lot.

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domino harvey
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#10 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 05, 2009 8:32 pm

Summer Storm coming from VCI October 20
SYNOPSIS:
It’s a tale of power and passions when a Russian siren (Linda Darnell), who wants the finer things in life, sinks her hooks into a judge (George Sanders), a decadent aristocrat (Edward Everett Horton) and an estate superintendent (Hugo Haas), with surprising results. Fine direction by master auteur Douglas Sirk (Imitation of Life, 1959) and an Oscar-nominated score highlight this adaptation of the Anton Chekhov drama “The Shooting Party.”

BONUS FEATURES:

* Author Bernard Dick on Director Douglas Sirk - Interviewed by Joel Blumberg
* Original Theatrical Trailer

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jsteffe
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#11 Post by jsteffe » Thu Aug 06, 2009 12:28 am

Awesome news about Summer Storm--thanks!

It would be interesting to compare Sirk's film with the lovely and extremely popular Soviet adaption of the same story, My Tender and Affectionate Animal (dir. Emil Loteanu, 1978), also known as The Shooting Party or Drama at the Hunt. (The original title of the Chekhov story is "Drama na okhote.") A subtitled DVD of that film is available from the Russian Cinema Council.

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david hare
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#12 Post by david hare » Thu Aug 06, 2009 3:06 am

Summer Storm is one of the greatest American pictures of the 1940s.

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Zazou dans le Metro
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#13 Post by Zazou dans le Metro » Thu Aug 06, 2009 3:56 am

I posted this before on a Rossellini thread but I should have cross posted here too.
Coming from Carlotta -

03 décembre

* Coffret Douglas Sirk : LA FILLE DES MARAIS (1935) / LES PILLIERS DE LA SOCIÉTÉ (1935) / PARAMATTA, BAGNE DE FEMMES (1937) / LA HABANERA (1937)

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jsteffe
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#14 Post by jsteffe » Thu Aug 06, 2009 10:12 am

david hare wrote:Summer Storm is one of the greatest American pictures of the 1940s.
It seems you're not the only person who admires this film! I came across these user comments on imdb:
SUMMER STORM is Douglas Sirk's 1944 filming of Chekhov's 'The Shooting Party.' Why this literate, mature and well acted film isn't better known is a mystery to me.

[snip]

Linda Darnell has one of the best roles of her film career, and she's never been better then she is here. She gives a sensual and sexy performance as the vain and greedy girl who plays several lovers against each other in order get all she can out of each of them. I think Linda Darnell's beauty hardened rather early, and even by A LETTER TO THREE WIVES in 1949, she was already rather sharp and cold looking. But in 1944 and SUMMER STORM, she was still soft and lovely, and one of the most remarkably beautiful brunettes of the era.

George Sanders gives another fine performance, in a rather typical George Sanders part, as a snobbish, aristocratic judge who's obsession with the girl ruins his career and his engagement to lovely Anna Lee. His loves scenes with Darnell are quite frank and passionate for their day, and both stars are excellent together.

And Edward Everette Horton gives what has to be one of the best performances of his career, in a role quite unlike his usual, as a spoiled, lecherous Russian count.

A top notch adult drama in every way.

James
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#15 Post by James » Thu Aug 06, 2009 12:42 pm

Would A Time to Love and a Time to Die be a good introduction to the movies of Douglas Sirk?

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#16 Post by Vic Pardo » Thu Aug 06, 2009 1:02 pm

james wrote:Would A Time to Love and a Time to Die be a good introduction to the movies of Douglas Sirk?
No, try MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS, WRITTEN ON THE WIND, or IMITATION OF LIFE--first.
Then work your way up to TIME TO LOVE... and TARNISHED ANGELS.
When you've got all that out of the way, then you'll be ready for the cream of the crop--HAS ANYBODY SEEN MY GAL?, TAZA SON OF COCHISE, THERE'S ALWAYS TOMORROW and BATTLE HYMN.

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domino harvey
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#17 Post by domino harvey » Thu Aug 06, 2009 2:14 pm

Oh come on. Has Anybody Seen My Gal? is my favorite too, but it's not like anyone needs advanced knowledge of Sirk to appreciate Charles Coburn cutting a rug!

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#18 Post by James » Thu Aug 06, 2009 2:25 pm

Thank you for the recommendations.

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whaleallright
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#19 Post by whaleallright » Thu Aug 06, 2009 5:23 pm

Coffret Douglas Sirk : LA FILLE DES MARAIS (1935) / LES PILLIERS DE LA SOCIÉTÉ (1935) / PARAMATTA, BAGNE DE FEMMES (1937) / LA HABANERA (1937)
Surprised nobody has commented on this news!

The first two of these films are real rarities from the earliest phase of Sirk's career:
  • LA FILLE DES MARAIS / DAS MÄDCHEN VOM MOORHOF / THE GIRL FROM THE MOORS - Adapts the same Selma Lagerlöf novel as Victor Sjöström's magnificent GIRL FROM THE MARSH CROFT from 1917

    LES PILLIERS DE LA SOCIÉTÉ /STÜTZEN DER GESELLSCHAFT / PILLARS OF SOCIETY - Adapts Ibsen.
As for the other two:
  • PARAMATTA, BAGNE DE FEMMES / ZU NEUEN UFERN / TO NEW SHORES - This is probably Sirk's most important German film, and also one of Zarah Leander's first massive hits. It is a very moving and sublimely well-made melodrama. Only on DVD in Germany, to my knowledge, where it is still much-loved.

    LA HABAÑERA - Available in R1 on Kino.
By the way, can anyone confirm what I suspect, namely that the large list of DVDs in the "Deutsche Filmklassiker" series do not have English subtitles?

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Re: Douglas Sirk

#20 Post by david hare » Thu Aug 06, 2009 6:24 pm

Jonah I had elsewhere, but I will repeat, mainly to bemoan - still - the continuing absence of Schlussakord. The first two, Madchen and PiIlars of Society will presumably be close to the French TV (Cinema de Minuit) broadcasts in PQ. I'm curious to see how much of an improvement the last two pictures will be over the 80s SBS prints that were last screened around 93/94. These were both good, although the SBS Habanera is obviously a British source as there are two censor cuts during the bullfight scene (would never be cut here.) Otherwise it's a sharp cleanly detailed print that's far better than the shit Kino version. And Zu Neuen/Parramatta Bagne de Femmes is essential to anyone still grappling with the concept of melos-drama - thanks to Zarah Leander and the "aboriginal" chorus girls in the sleazy nightclub scene.

The hold up for everyone I guess is the lack of English subs. Of course all of these would not be difficult to subtitle elsewhere....

Meanwhile I think the imminent R1 DVDs of Summer Storm and Shockproof are hopefully going to shake the brains of people who are still having trouble connecting to Sirk's 50s work. IN fact I think the German period is just as important as the all too thinly populated 40s fiilmography (which is uniformly high if not stratospheric) - Sirk's work, like Ophuls turns in a circle formally and thematically as a single body guided by a fluidly expressive style and taste which came out of a prolific and distinguished theatre career pre-movies (like Ophuls) and a central obsession with classical tropes - all of which are as apparent in his Ibsen, as they are in or Shockproof or the great German and American melodramas as they are in even something relatively minor like Battle Hymn (I confess to having real trouble with this one) or Taza ( a noble film masquerading as a trifle.) BTW Carlotta also has out a very attractive Captain Lightfoot. This is a doozy of a picture, and I think it's the first time we see Rock developing as an actor, in particular a comic actor (even his performance in MO is still almost totally "guided" by Sirk I think.) And his lightweight but charming "Americana" pictures give lie to the Mulveyian "Subvertor" theory, surely. Finally.

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Gregory
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#21 Post by Gregory » Thu Aug 06, 2009 7:14 pm

david hare wrote:And his lightweight but charming "Americana" pictures give lie to the Mulveyian "Subvertor" theory, surely. Finally.
How so? I don't believe Mulvey or any other critic has ever meant to claim that all of Sirk's Hollywood films were equal in terms of sociopolitically subversive qualities. I'm actually surprised that you've been arguing against the notion that Sirk was introducing such qualities into Hollywood conventions. As I was trying to say in my recent post in the Written on the Wind/All that Heaven Allows thread, I don't think this line of critical inquiry began with Mulvey. It's been the defining trend in scholarly critical analysis of Sirk ever since there has been such a thing, no? If you think that Mulvey has gone too far in some of her conclusions (or even in her methods) then that's perhaps a different matter, but specific counter-arguments would be needed. Personally, I don't see any grounds to reject out of hand an entire critical approach that has led to a much more profound understanding of what's going on in Sirk. I'm not convinced by absolutely everything Mulvey writes on Sirk, of course, but it's wise not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, especially when there are few viable alternative schools of thought on Sirk on the table, at least as far as I can see.

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david hare
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#22 Post by david hare » Thu Aug 06, 2009 7:37 pm

No, surely it's not limited to Laura Greg, but what always bothers me about it is that it became the staple raison d'etre for a generation to "discover" Sirk, as though the formal qualities and the broader classical themes were secondary, if of any consequence at all. If we want to talk about "subversion" which so often mistakenly comes from a narrow view of 50s America generally as the Eisenhower beige/postWar/Coldwar machine decade we should be including Fuller, Siegel and all the major director who began effective directorial careers after the war. My point about this has always been to keep the focus on what and how much Sirk loved about America - theThoreuaian references to Walden et al in ATHA are key to that - and if you want savage critiques of society nothing is tougher than Schockproof. Surely the perfect meeting of two artistic giants in Fuller and Sirk, rewritten and botched ending notwithstanding. One of the many towering achievements of that masterpiece is to transcend even the Noir genre and layer the deeply pessimistic scrrenplay with a searing reflection of sexual power and control and the chasm that opens up for the protagonists between them and their "society". He similarly transcends the Melo genre with an equally searing exmination of sexuality and marriage and loss and society in the sublime TAT.

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Gregory
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#23 Post by Gregory » Thu Aug 06, 2009 8:16 pm

I agree with you on not leaving Fuller out of this, (and I take it you're not saying anyone has explicitly argued otherwise?). I also agree that the subversive angle is hardly the only reason to appreciate Sirk. Aside from film critics, however, it seems to me that people tend to look not deeply enough into Sirk rather than looking too deeply (i.e. going too much off the deep end with sociopolitical, feminist and/or psychoanalytical types of readings -- if indeed that has even occurred). By way of stating where I'm coming from here, I may have a greater affinity for the latter types of film criticism than the average viewer or member of this forum -- based on many comments I've read that are disdainful of the type of things Mulvey has contributed -- but I could be wrong about that. Also, you referred in your post in the other thread to looking more at what makes "the films come alive for 'average' audiences." I'm not only fundamentally unconcerned with looking principally at that type of thing, I worry that it encourages one to make specious distinctions separating aesthetic content and ideology, viewing films mainly as "entertainment" when they were much more.
From your comments, it seemed you were dubious about Sirk as a "subverter," but perhaps I misunderstood you. I would say it's certainly possible to acknowledge the subversive element in many of his Hollywood films while examining them in other ways simultaneously. The reason the issue of whether he was smuggling messages and techniques has come up more than once in discussions of Sirk on this forum is that someone will occasionally pop up in Sirk discussions to argue against that point (from a position of ignorance, in my view). The best way the get beyond that specific point is to acknowledge it and move on.
Regarding the question of whether Sirk was anti-American (to give put a phrase to a point you raise) -- I think you're right to argue that he was not, but I would go a step further and say that the whole question is nonsensical. His use of Thoreau, which you mentioned, adequately problematizes the issue, as Thoreau was a dissident. I.e. there is no uniform "American orthodoxy" against which Sirk could have positioned himself. If we're talking about certain specific qualities of the mainstream, then that's different, and I think it can convincingly be argued that Sirk was in opposition to them.

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jsteffe
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#24 Post by jsteffe » Fri Aug 07, 2009 2:20 am

david hare wrote:No, surely it's not limited to Laura Greg, but what always bothers me about it is that it became the staple raison d'etre for a generation to "discover" Sirk, as though the formal qualities and the broader classical themes were secondary, if of any consequence at all. If we want to talk about "subversion" which so often mistakenly comes from a narrow view of 50s America generally as the Eisenhower beige/postWar/Coldwar machine decade we should be including Fuller, Siegel and all the major director who began effective directorial careers after the war.
I think these comments really nail the problem.

To use the example of All That Heaven Allows, if you read the original novel, you'll find that the elements of social critique in the film are there to begin with, and it's a fairly ordinary piece of woman's fiction. Critiques of social climbing, conformism, and even of women being trapped in conventional roles, were fairly common in Fifties popular culture. Sirk didn't "radically subvert" the material, but he enriched it with his own ideas and skill as a director. Here are a few paragraphs from my article for Turner Classic Movies:
For All That Heaven Allows, the source material was a 1952 novel by Edna and Harry Lee of the same title, first published as a story in Woman's Home Companion. Besides retaining the novel's original title, Sirk's film is in fact quite close to its source in terms of its underlying social critique, the general plot outline, the basic traits of all the main characters, and even some of the dialogue.

At the same time, Sirk's film is an excellent example of how as a director he was able to enrich the often formulaic scripts he had to work with during this period. His basic approach to All That Heaven Allows is revealed by his oft-quoted comment on the title: "The studio loved the title, they thought it meant you could have everything you wanted. I meant it exactly the other way round. As far as I'm concerned, heaven is stingy." However, the point is not so much that Sirk subverts the original intent of the story as that he adds more complex dimensions to it through visual detail, acting, lighting and composition of the shot. The daughter Kay's bookish references to Freud are treated with a certain comic irony, underlining her lack of self-awareness regarding her own feelings toward her mother's relationship with Ron Kirby. Ron's embodiment of the values of American individualism is made more explicit in the film through an allusion to Thoreau's Walden. In addition, Ron's character is given an element of vulnerability not present in the novel, as represented by the broken Wedgewood teapot Cary finds in his barn and his near-fatal accident towards the end of the film. The climax of the novel is perhaps too obvious in the way it echoes the theme of the widow buried alive in her husband's tomb: when the gas furnace goes out in her house, Cary becomes trapped in the basement while trying to fix it and nearly dies of asphyxiation. In the film, this theme is more subtly developed on a visual level throughout by positioning Cary within frames, most notably behind windowpanes and in the ominous reflection of the television set during the Christmas sequence. In addition to the device of the frame-within-the-frame, typical Sirkian stylistic flourishes in the film include the frequent use of mirrors or other reflective surfaces and expressive, sometimes non-realistic use of shadows and colored lighting.

Sirk's "happy end," in contrast with the novel, offers a more complex and interesting resolution of the fundamental problem of the story, which is the incompatibility of Ron's largely solitary existence in nature and Cary's domesticity and dependence on her old social ties. By the end of the film, Cary still becomes part of the home that Ron has built for both of them as she does in the novel, but here it is at the cost of Ron's temporary incapacitation, or "domestication," if you will. Their union, moreover, is blessed by the sudden appearance of a deer at the window. Sirk compares such transparently contrived endings with the deus ex machina (i.e., last-minute intervention by the "gods") of a Euripides play: "You see, there is no real solution of the predicament the people in the play are in, just the deus ex machina, which is now called 'the happy end,' and which both Hollywood and Athenians and assorted Greeks were so keen on. But this is what is being called Euripidean irony. It makes the crowd happy. To the few it makes the aporia [dramatic impasse] more transparent."
I really hate one sentence in that article (not quoted here), otherwise I still stand by what I wrote.

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Gregory
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Re: Douglas Sirk

#25 Post by Gregory » Fri Aug 07, 2009 3:12 am

jsteffe wrote:To use the example of All That Heaven Allows, if you read the original novel, you'll find that the elements of social critique in the film are there to begin with, and it's a fairly ordinary piece of woman's fiction. Critiques of social climbing, conformism, and even of women being trapped in conventional roles, were fairly common in Fifties popular culture. Sirk didn't "radically subvert" the material, but he enriched it with his own ideas and skill as a director.
I don't know which critics you mean to reply to here, but none come to mind who were arguing that it was the source material in particular that Sirk was subverting in this case. I haven't read enough women's fiction from the time period to say just how ordinary it is, and I'm not sure how someone might demonstrate such a thing. I'm also not sure what it means to say that it was normal for popular culture to critique women being trapped in "conventional" roles, because without specifying which conventions in particular we're talking about then one is left to assume that, at the most general level, popular culture of the time was by definition a reflection of the relevant social and cultural conventions. I just don't know what it would mean for popular culture as a whole to be assumed to occupy such a critical social role in the 1950s as you're suggesting. I'm sympathetic to the argument that in many respects the women's melodrama in general carried many of these critical values in its conventions. In other respects, however, reinforced prevailing social roles for women, such as the type of melodrama the basic premise of which was the mother's role as one of noble sacrifice to the children.
Again, I think it goes well beyond just Sirk. One could look to certain films by Cukor, Ophuls, etc.

One more comment, perhaps more in reply to David, regarding the supposedly "narrow view of 50s America generally as the Eisenhower beige/postWar/Coldwar machine decade." I've learned to be very suspicious of wholesale attempts to rehabilitate the reputation of the social/political mainstream of the 1950s. The consensus of most 20th-century social and cultural historians has mainly been challenged by a relatively small group with a reactionary agenda, which includes attacking the so-called "excesses" of the social progress associated with the late '60s (much of it in fact dating from the 1970s). Of course I'm not trying to place anyone here in this category; I hope my point is clear enough without getting into such broad historical issues.

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