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.