All That Heaven Allows  and Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven .
Stop by for one or both!
Ticket Information: Free and Open to the Public
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All That Heaven Allows
courtesy of The Criterion Collection:
This heartbreakingly beautiful indictment of 1950s American mores by Douglas Sirk follows the blossoming love between a well-off widow (Jane Wyman) and her handsome and earthy younger gardener (Rock Hudson). When their romance prompts the scorn of her children and country club friends, she must decide whether to pursue her own happiness or carry on a lonely, hemmed-in existence for the sake of the approval of others. With the help of ace cinematographer Russell Metty, Sirk imbues nearly every shot with a vivid and distinct emotional tenor. A profoundly felt film about class and conformity in small-town America, All That Heaven Allows is a pinnacle of expressionistic Hollywood melodrama.
Far From Heaven
courtesy of Focus Features:
Far from Heaven marks the second teaming of leading lady Julianne Moore with writer/director Todd Haynes and producer Christine Vachon, following the trio’s collaboration on the acclaimed 1995 drama Safe. At the 2002 Venice International Film Festival, Far from Heaven was honored with the Coppa Volpi Award for Best Actress (Julianne Moore) and the Individual Contribution Award (given to cinematographer Edward Lachman).
Far from Heaven tells the story of a privileged housewife in 1950s America, and is inspired by the great Hollywood dramas of that era. Haynes lovingly depicts the gorgeous and placid surfaces of mid-century suburban family life, even as his story breaks them open to reveal a repressed world of limitless emotions and life-shattering desires that cross the boundaries of racial and sexual tolerance with tragic results.
It is the fall of 1957. The Whitakers, the very picture of a suburban family, make their home in Hartford, Connecticut. Their daily existences are characterized by carefully observed family etiquette, social events, and an overall desire to keep up with the Joneses. Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) is the homemaker, wife and mother. Frank Whitaker (Dennis Quaid) is the breadwinner, husband and father. They have two pre-teen children, a boy and a girl. As the story unfolds before us, Cathy’s pristine world is transformed. Her interactions with her gardener, Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert); her best friend, Eleanor Fine (Patricia Clarkson); and her maid, Sybil (Viola Davis), reflect the upheavals in her life. Cathy is faced with choices that spur gossip within the community and change several lives forever.
A Focus Features and Vulcan Productions presentation of a Killer Films/John Wells/Section Eight production. A Film by Todd Haynes. Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert. Far from Heaven. Co-Starring Patricia Clarkson, Viola Davis. Casting by Laura Rosenthal. Music by Elmer Bernstein. Costume Designer, Sandy Powell. Edited by James Lyons. Production Designer, Mark Friedberg. Director of Photography, Edward Lachman, A.S.C. Co-Producers, Bradford Simpson, Declan Baldwin. Executive Producers, John Wells, Eric Robison, John Sloss. Executive Producers, Steven Soderbergh, George Clooney. Produced by Jody Patton. Produced by Christine Vachon. Written and Directed by Todd Haynes.
“If I can say one thing for my pictures, it is a certain craftsmanship. A thought which has gone into every angle. There is nothing there without an optical reason.”
Biography courtesy of Turner Classic Movies:
Best known for his Hollywood melodramas of the 1950s, Douglas Sirk first achieved success in post-WWI Germany, as a theater director. Under the name Claus Detlef Sierck, he directed for the stage from 1922 to 1937, emphasizing the work of such classic playwrights as Moliere, Ibsen, Shaw and Shakespeare. In 1934 he was hired by UFA, which released his first feature film, ‘T was een April/It Was in April, in 1935. Despite his great success, Sirk left Germany in 1937 because of his opposition to the policies of the Third Reich. After a brief stay in France and Holland, where he worked on several scripts and produced two films, Sirk was invited to America to remake Zu Neuen Ufern/To New Shores (1937), one of his most successful German films featuring the great star Zarah Leander.
In Hollywood, after several years of aborted projects, Sirk directed his first American feature, Hitler’s Madman (1943). His early work in Hollywood remains largely undistinguished, although Sirk devotees insist that, like his later, more important films, it contains ironic critiques of American culture. Lured (1947) and Sleep, My Love (1948) stand out in this period as atypical but competent thrillers.
Sirk’s great period was during his association with Universal-International studios, beginning in 1951 and continuing until his retirement from filmmaking in 1959, and particularly with producers Albert Zugsmith and Ross Hunter. The series of melodramas he made for Universal struck a responsive chord with audiences; among the best-remembered are Magnificent Obsession (1954), All That Heaven Allows (1956), Written on the Wind (1956), A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958) and Imitation of Life (1959). During its release, Imitation of Life became Universal’s most commercially successful picture. Yet it also proved to be Sirk’s last film: either because of ill health, a distaste for American culture or both, Sirk retired from filmmaking and returned to Europe, living in Switzerland and Germany until his death.
Largely considered merely a director of competent melodramas by critics in North America, Sirk’s career was redefined by British criticism in the early 1970s. He became the subject of essays in theoretical film journals such as Screen and was given a retrospective at the 1972 Edinburgh Film Festival, along with an accompanying critical anthology. Such Sirk remarks as, “The angles are a director’s thoughts. The lighting is his philosophy” endeared him to a new generation of film critics viewing Sirk as a socially conscious artist who criticized Eisenhower America from within mainstream filmmaking.
Sirk’s style hinges on a highly developed sense of irony, employing subtle parody, cliche and stylization. At one time Sirk was seen as a filmmaker who simply employed conventional Hollywood rhetoric, but his style is now regarded as a form of Brechtian distancing that drew the viewer’s attention to the methods and purposes of Hollywood illusionism. The world of Sirk’s melodramas is extremely lavish and artificial, the colors of walls, cars, costumes and flowers harmonizing into a constructed aesthetic unity, providing a comment on the oppressive world of the American bourgeoisie. The false lake, a studio interior in “Written on the Wind”, for example, is presented as “obviously” false, an editorial comment on the self-deceptive, romanticized imagination that Marylee Hadley (Dorothy Malone) brings to the past. Sirk is renowned for his thematic use of mirrors, shadows and glass, as in the opening shot of Imitation of Life: behind the credits, chunks of glass, supposedly diamonds, slowly fill the frame from top to bottom, an ironic comment, like the film’s very title, about the nature of its own appeal. Later, more obviously political filmmakers like Rainer Werner Fassbinder have been influenced by Sirk’s American melodramas, which have been offered as models of ideological critique that may also pass as simple entertainment.
“I’ve always felt more politically comfortable making films that demonstrated problems and didn’t tell you how to solve them, but made you feel enough for the subjects who were hurt by these problems…”
Biography courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica:
Born January 2, 1961, Los Angeles, California, U.S., Todd Haynes is an American screenwriter and director known for films that examine fame, sexuality, and the lives of people on the periphery of mainstream society.
Haynes graduated from Brown University in 1985 with a B.A. in art and semiotics. In 1987 he earned attention for Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, a short film he wrote and directed that focused on singer Karen Carpenter’s battle with, and subsequent death from, anorexia nervosa. The film was noted for its postmodern approach, mixing news footage and documentary-style interviews with reenactments of scenes from Carpenter’s life—staged with Barbie dolls playing the roles of Carpenter and her brother, Richard. It was pulled from distribution, however, when Richard Carpenter sued Haynes for illegal use of music by his and Karen’s band, the Carpenters.
For his first full-length film, Poison (1991), Haynes intertwined three narratives inspired by the writings of Jean Genet. The film proved controversial, not simply because it explored sexual themes, including a story line about a gay man in prison, but because it received National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funding at a time when the agency was under attack from conservative groups for using public funds to support sexually explicit works. Haynes won further recognition for Safe (1995), a subtly unsettling depiction of a suburban woman (played by Julianne Moore) who believes she has become allergic to her environment. It was followed by Velvet Goldmine (1998), a multifaceted treatment of celebrity in the glam-rock era.
In Far from Heaven (2002), Haynes re-created the style of a Douglas Sirk melodrama to tell the tale of a seemingly perfect married couple in 1950s suburbia whose relationship is afflicted when the husband (Dennis Quaid) reveals to his wife (Moore) that he has been struggling with homosexuality. The film enjoyed substantial acclaim; Haynes was nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay, and he received best director awards from several critics’ groups. His next film was I’m Not There (2007), an unorthodox biography of American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, in which various actors (including Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, and Heath Ledger) played characters representing Dylan at different stages of his life. Haynes later cowrote and directed the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce (2011), based on James M. Cain’s novel of the same name and starring Kate Winslet as the beleaguered title character, a divorced mother in 1930s Los Angeles.
In 2015 Haynes released Carol, an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt. The critically acclaimed drama is set in the 1950s, and it centres on the romantic relationship between a female store clerk (Rooney Mara) and an older married woman (Blanchett).
LinksHere is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:
12/11/15 – All That Pastiche Allows:
12/11/15 – “…the color comes into play before Ron is even a major part of her life, when Cary opts to wear a low-cut red dress for her “date” with Harvey, the pleasant old guy who either can’t acknowledge or can’t handle that her still-vibrant sexuality hasn’t died along with her late husband. Sirk isn’t afraid to embrace these visual symbols in full—Ron the gardener knows a hothouse flower when he sees one—and it’s striking, the degree to which color clarifies and intensifies the melodrama.” Scott Tobias on All That Heaven Allows, The Dissolve – link
12/28/15 – “Far from Heaven doesn’t remake the Sirk movies in question so much as direct their mirrored surfaces at each other—transposing signs, exposing subtexts, renewing resonances. As in All That Heaven Allows, a middle-class heroine scandalizes her community by getting too friendly with her gardener. But Haynes’s ill-fated pair, Cathy (Safe (1995 film) star Julianne Moore) and Raymond (Dennis Haysbert), face a taboo more virulent than the age and class differences that keep the earlier film’s Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson apart: Cathy is white, Raymond black.” Dennis Lim, Village Voice – link
12/31/15 – Need a primer on Douglas Sirk? Dig into this excellent retrospective feature and interview on and with the master of melodrama in Film Comment magazine from back in 1978. – link
1/5/16 – “Sirk’s visual music eluded his critics even as it transcended Hollywood conventions, deepening the melodrama’s cultural and psychological dimensions by hyperbolizing its very mechanics. At their best, his films move beyond naturalism toward what Godard lovingly called ‘delirium’—where raw, even pathological emotions find their stylistic match. No longer at the “far side of paradise” where the late Andrew Sarris placed him in The American Cinema (1968), Sirk is unquestionably one of Hollywood’s greatest filmmakers.” Tony Pipolo in Artforum just two weeks ago! – link
1/6/16 – “Wyman never telegraphs “repressed” with flutters and stammers, as so many do when playing uptight suburbanites. Any good actor knows a drunk scene is about showing the inebriated fighting their symptoms, and Wyman knows that Cary treats her emotions the same way. They’re giveaways, to be concealed as carefully as you’d try to avoid a stagger after one round too many.” – Farran Smith Nehme on All That Heaven Allows – link
1/7/16 – “I feel that Far from Heaven may be one of the biggest, most experimental mainstream films of all time. Do you think it’s fair to call it experimental?” Anthony Kaufman interviewing Todd Haynes, indieWIRE – link
1/31/16 – Following up the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s season celebrating the work of Douglas Sirk, the expressive filmmaker behind CCC alum All That Heaven Allows, Film Comment magazine produced an hour long podcast discussing the master melodramatist’s work. – link
10/30/16 – CCC alum All That Heaven Allows by Douglas Sirk gets a personal history via Noel Bjorndahl over at Film Alert 101 – link