Monday, July 19, 2010

Magnificent Obsession

Jane Wyman. Rock Hudson. Douglas Sirk. Ever since I first watched All That Heaven Allows, I have been in love with those three names. All That Heaven Allows is the quintessential technicolored melodrama of the 1950s. It later inspired Far From Heaven (with Julianne Moore in one of her most brilliant rolls).

There is a glowing beauty about Sirk's films. The purple shades of a distant forest, the vibrant pinks of a flower bouquet, the exquisite pop of wallpapered rooms. The gowns. The hair. The polite interactions. There is something surface level about Sirk's films. The shallow level one could perceive the film on a first viewing. So little is explained. High emotion leading to strange, unexpected behavior. These films are pop art soap operas.

Of course, there is always something beneath the surface. And, for Sirk, that one thing is always love. Sirk is concerned with the complications of love. The way love exhausts and energizes. The way love grows from the worst circumstances.

Hudson plays a wealthy brat. Concerned only for himself (and, not even himself most of the time). Always drinking and seducing. Wyman plays a newlywed. A late in life marriage. On the eve of the six month anniversary, Wyman's husband dies from a heart attack because the resuscitator is being used on Hudson (after an accident caused by his own reckless behavior). Hudson is blamed for the husband's death.

Throughout the film Hudson seeks forgiveness. The death of one creates a brand new life in another. And Wyman, in an Oscar nominated role, portrays confusion and acceptance very well. Not only does Hudson cause her husband's death... but, Wyman is eventually blinded in a car accident caused by Hudson (remember, I said melodrama).

Anyone interested in old fashioned, vibrant films filled with over the top romanticism... this is your film.


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