Sunday, August 29, 2010

Links: All That Heaven Allows

The great beast of mid-century film criticism, Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, chimed in with a quite condescending, spoiler-filled review of "this frankly feminine fiction" back in 1956.

Fortunately Dave Kehr is around to present a more enlightened view in his capsule review in the Chicago Reader: "the stuff of a standard weepie, you might think, until Sirk's camera begins to draw a deeply disturbing, deeply compassionate portrait of a woman trapped by stifling moral and social codes. Sirk's meaning is conveyed almost entirely by his mise-en-scene—a world of glistening, treacherous surfaces, of objects that take on a terrifying life of their own; he is one of those rare filmmakers who insist that you read the image."

Laura Mulvey's essay for The Criterion Collection recaps the history of director Douglas Sirk's rehabilitation by film critics, and points out some of the main features of his style: "Years after initial dismissal (and sometimes derision) by reviewers, Sirk’s successful string of big-budget soapers (and the director himself) acquired a rich and complex critical afterlife, as different aspects and facets of the films have been reclaimed by successive phases of film criticism. For auteurists and structuralists of the 1960s, Sirk’s mastery of cinematic language transcended the working conditions of the Hollywood studio system; feminists reclaimed him as a director of melodrama, with his women protagonists and dramas of interiority, domestic space and sexual desire; gay critics today see a camp subtext in his films with Rock Hudson, in which double entendre and ambiguous situations can be read as something other than what they seem."

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