457 Magnificent Obsession

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HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#101 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Feb 01, 2009 11:50 pm

As was Carne's run of Quai des brumes and Le jour se leve. This not counting films made under occupation.

The hypocricy is breathtaking-- Triumph of the Will and Birth of a Nation are celebrated for their formal qualities (rightly, I might add), yet someone like Sirk who didn't have a fascist molecule in him experiences the aforementioned, Gremillon is still awaiting rehab owing to Occupation filmmaking (though why Carne escapes this with Les enfants du is beyond me), not to mention the absurd panging of Clouzot (Corbeau in particular). If the critical establishment cannot detect a functional anti-occupation message they don't know how to create a functional narrative for the man who is making do, and moving forward with his life and work making the best of a bad situation and working under occupation (the square thru a circle squeezing wrought on behalf of something like Day of Wrath, for example, requires the bursting of blood vessels to come to an anti-occupation message; quite frankly, you could move to virtually any title in Dreyers canon, with tormented females fighting against persecution before meeting their martyrdom and come to the same conclusion.. imagine the field day you could have with someone like Mizoguchi if you wanted to attach meanings of specific political utilities that go beyond the general societal humanist message resident inthese texts).

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david hare
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#102 Post by david hare » Mon Feb 02, 2009 12:34 am

But for a couple of location sequences in Nice and the Parc Buttes Chaumont in Paris, all of Gueule d'Amour was shot in Berlin. So was a great deal of La Bete Humaine.

One reason was that UFA and Tobis Klangfilm offered ultra high quality studio and audio facilities away from the shambles of the French production industry particulaly after 1936. And the American RCA semi-monopoly on Sound Stages in France. Italy and Spain were also Fascist countries after 1936 so you also get a certain amount of proselytizing about Rossellini and his allegedly "fascist" wartime films - the whole thing is totally ludicrous.

Im sure the Occupation and in particular the fact Le Ciel est a Vous was admired by the Vichy Petainists (but which is in fact a proto feminist rather than a fascist "family values" picture) is one of the problems behind Grem's lack of recognition.

I can understand the edginess still of many in Germany about anything to do with the leadup to the Holocaust and the War, and not only Jewish people. But to hear people like Patalas and Straub mouthing this nonsense about Sirk when the contrary evidence is clearly on the screen is mind boggling.

accatone
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#103 Post by accatone » Mon Feb 02, 2009 4:02 am

David - is there a source for the bashing online you can provide? If it was in the Filmkritik what i suppose, it would be interesting to read (actually i must have these around here in print - but not able to find a direct critique/bashing at the moment.) With these in hand someone/myself might be able to add something to this interseting discussion which could easliy make up its own thread. Thanks Herr Hare!

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HerrSchreck
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#104 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Feb 02, 2009 11:10 am

Here's something to sink your choppers into from none other than Jan Christopher Horak, who renders the familiar pattern of guilt by seeming Existential Normality Under Tyranny...
Jan Christopher Horak wrote:On the other hand, Sirk's German films, for all their melodramatic excess, never failed to support and reaffirm the social order, and, as Eric Rentschler has convincingly demonstrated, contributed to the creation of normalcy in the Third Reich. The impression of normalcy in a time that was far from normal, given the elimination of all democratic rights, the smashing of trade unionism, and the use of murder and incarceration without due process as a political weapon, was in the interest of National Socialism. Furthermore, in their subtext, a number of films communicated racist and anti-American ideology

The article, called Sirk's Early Exile Films: Boefje and Hitler's Madman, is online, and broken into 9 pages.

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George Kaplan
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2005 7:42 pm

Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#105 Post by George Kaplan » Mon Feb 02, 2009 12:57 pm

Matt, Professional Tourist, et al,
For many, many years (perhaps someone else here remembers as well) there was a rather famous instance of graffiti in Los Angeles that read "Agnes Moorehead Is God." It was painted in blue/green (?) letters, quite large - so that anyone in a passing car could easily read it - on a brick wall that was set back from the street. It was right in the heart of Hollywood, immediately north of Hollywood Blvd., just off the "Walk Of Fame." If memory serves me right, it was very near or just across from Tick Tock Restaurant. One of the most fascinating aspects of it was that it remained untouched for many, many years.

Also, per the interest in Agnes' sexual preference, it is worth checking out Boze Hadleigh's "Hollywood Lesbians" in which he interviews Moorehead, along with Stanwyck, Judith Anderson, Dorothy Arzner, etc. It has been many years since I've read it but I recall that few of the interviewees acknowledge themselves as lesbian - perhaps only Patsy Kelly. What I remember most about the Moorehead piece was her somewhat wounded pride when asked about various other "stars" (Davis, Stanwyck, etc.), most of whom were name above the title players, and her wishing not to be too forthcoming with anecdotes because she didn't want her story to be merely a footnote to that of bigger stars, and a certainty that her story was worth telling for its own sake. More is the pity that she was such a private person and never published a memoir.

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Professional Tourist
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#106 Post by Professional Tourist » Mon Feb 02, 2009 3:10 pm

George Kaplan wrote:Matt, Professional Tourist, et al,
For many, many years (perhaps someone else here remembers as well) there was a rather famous instance of graffiti in Los Angeles that read "Agnes Moorehead Is God." It was painted in blue/green (?) letters, quite large - so that anyone in a passing car could easily read it - on a brick wall that was set back from the street. It was right in the heart of Hollywood, immediately north of Hollywood Blvd., just off the "Walk Of Fame." If memory serves me right, it was very near or just across from Tick Tock Restaurant. One of the most fascinating aspects of it was that it remained untouched for many, many years.
Must be this one:

Image

:D :D
George Kaplan wrote:More is the pity that she was such a private person and never published a memoir.
I don't think that would ever have happened, even if she had lived to see the semi-retirement she had been planning for the mid-seventies. There is a possibility that AM kept a journal/diary since she did like to write, but in thirty-four years one has yet to surface. I think if she did keep a journal, she may have destroyed it before her final illness. But who knows, perhaps as with Kay Francis one will turn up eventually -- that would be an incredible find. Biographer Charles Tranberg went through her archives at Wisconsin State Historical Society, but I don't think he went through her personal library and papers at Muskingum College in Ohio -- if there's a diary still in existence anywhere, it's probably either at Muskingum or hidden away somewhere at her old farm (which now also belongs to Muskingum).

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david hare
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#107 Post by david hare » Mon Feb 02, 2009 4:34 pm

Thanks for the ref Schreck. My information is entirely anecdotal but I've heard it over decades. The pretext for this has always been that SIrk;s cinema did not work against the "Family Values" of the National Socialists. It's just bullshit.

From Horak's first page:

"On the other hand, Sirk's German films, for all their melodramatic excess, never failed to support and reaffirm the social order, and, as Eric Rentschler has convincingly demonstrated, contributed to the creation of normalcy in the Third Reich......... the smashing of trade unionism, and the use of murder and incarceration without due process as a political weapon, was in the interest of National Socialism. Furthermore, in their subtext, a number of films communicated racist and anti-American ideology.

The last sentence in particular seems to me to present a wilful misreading of the text of Sirk's last German film La Habanera in which the capitalist landowner is revealed to have been corruptly poisoning the water supply. He falls victim to his own machinations. One can only assume Horak is reading the movie as a form of Aryan/ Non-Aryan love story whch goes wrong. Everything about the reading smells of a preordained moral template which simply imposes an ideological reading on a narrative that is far more textured than the author seems aware. Leander's ambivalent "farewell" for instance, having turned her back on what began as a life of excitement. The theme of flight is cental in fact, as it is in Zu Neuen Ufern.
Last edited by david hare on Mon Feb 02, 2009 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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HerrSchreck
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#108 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Feb 02, 2009 6:50 pm

It's more than just bullshit, thought you're of course correct. It's a suppressive ideological agenda.

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George Kaplan
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#109 Post by George Kaplan » Mon Feb 02, 2009 10:24 pm

Professional Tourist wrote:Must be this one:

Image
I'd say so. Thanks.

accatone
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#110 Post by accatone » Tue Feb 03, 2009 7:47 am

HerrSchreck wrote:Here's something to sink your choppers …
Thanks Schreck! I was looking for further info/dismissals of Sirk from Patalas and (J.M.?) Straub but was unfortunatly not able to find anything - in fact i only read about Patalas Sirk retrospective in Munich http://www.zeit.de/1973/45/Die-Melodramen-kommen-wieder" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;. Your Horak quote points out quite clear what could be the bottom line of what i found online (rather quick research and i am in not really a Sirk aficinade) that is the reactionary tone of Sirks work. (to put it very short!)

What are David Hares thoughts on the religious undertones of Sirks work? ;)

Edit: Many posts in before this one…just to make it clear, i am neutral to the different readings at this point but am interested in the reception and in how far 50s audiences were able to seperate the reactionary/relegious/melodramatical parts of the film from the rest that might be considered quite the "opposite".

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GringoTex
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#111 Post by GringoTex » Tue Feb 03, 2009 11:46 am

david hare wrote:Italy and Spain were also Fascist countries after 1936 so you also get a certain amount of proselytizing about Rossellini and his allegedly "fascist" wartime films - the whole thing is totally ludicrous.
On a related side note- I'm reading The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini right now and Gallagher argues that Italian cinema under Mussolini suffered less censorship than Hollywood cinema at the time. Apparently, Mussolini didn't believe in the effectiveness of propaganda films and hardly ever interfered.

accatone
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#112 Post by accatone » Tue Feb 03, 2009 1:14 pm

Rossellini is a good "side note" as far as his early postwar films are quite different, nevertheless melodramatic, to Sirks "beautiful" formal palette. Is there a sirkian Edmund anywhere? And wasn't the effect of Magnani on my mother quite different than say Sirks womens? However this might be comparing Aepfel mit Birnen...

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david hare
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#113 Post by david hare » Tue Feb 03, 2009 7:19 pm

Accatone I have never given a moment's thought to Sirk and religion. Apart from the obvious reason (my anathema to it) I think when Sirk mentions religious dimensions or such things here and there in the Jon Halliday book I feel he's pitching something audience friendly (or at least Halliday's untaped transcription of what he's saying is), or more broadly he's invoking classical/Biblical literary tropes, just as he does Calderon, Sophocles, Shakespeare and Cervantes. The "spiritual" element of the Lloyd C Douglas text for MO is really as similarly broad as the texts for the three Borzages that were based on Douglas novels. A sort of wishy washy non-denominational "spiritualist-mysticism." The Thoreau "touch the earth lightly" etc refs in ATHA are more Germane.

Re Mussolini and the Italian industry, there is also the documented observation of the way in which the Occupying Powers pulled together and centralized production and studio facilities of the French Industry during the War - probably anything would have been an improvement after the shambles of 33-39 in which every man and his dog or their focus groups were getting into production and then going broke - Pierre Natan, Albatross Film, etc etc. Certainly Post war France was in a healthier position to resurrect it's industry, although there may be some force to the argument that the degree of production uniformity imposed by the Vichyists may have been the basis for the groaning stasis of what became the "tradition de Qualite" era of the fifties. (But that's another subject.)

EDIT: Meanhwile more Sirk as Nazi (believe me it doesn't take much effort to find this crap.

accatone
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#114 Post by accatone » Wed Feb 04, 2009 5:43 am

Thanks David! Believe me i was not able to find anything in german language…however, as pointed out earlier i am still neutral so this was an interesting read. Actually i am not as much interested in his 30s films but the 50s and its reception so i better look out for some discussion in the next weeks off line…(Including old Daddy Wayne and Mama Magnani). The difference between humanism and religion/mysticism is too difficult for me to discuss online nevertheless i can see where you are coming from in terms of "broad literal tropes" - but do not feel good with "wishy washy"…

As for the Italien Cinema here is Godards praise / 3a - Histoire(s) du Cinema.

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Michael
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#115 Post by Michael » Wed Feb 04, 2009 10:44 am

I can’t put a finger on what is that makes Sirk’s films stand out of all Hollywood melodramas/weepies. I think every Sirk’s Hunter-produced Technicolor is a masterpiece and yes, that counts Magnificent Obsession too. (I've watched it three times in one week already).While MO’s crazy plot prevents itself from topping All That Heaven Allows and Imitation of Life, MO is still a masterpiece in various areas: lush and brilliant mise en scene, shadings of emotions, the unique rhythym of its editing of images and sounds: there are stretches of silence between hilarious chorus ahhhhings that are really smoldering, making the images burn deeper. And of course, the divine tailoring of a nervous gay man into a Hollywood star. I’ve seen so many melos, Davies, Minnelli, Visconti, etc and none of them matches the zenith of Sirk’s. Every year I sit down with the marathon of his Technicolors at least twice and why is that I find his films remain so watchable after so many years?

It’s no question that his films are the most beautiful of 1950s cinema.

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Napier
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#116 Post by Napier » Wed Feb 04, 2009 11:18 am

Michael, your wonderful posts keep making me want to see this more and more. I love Sirk films but have not seen this yet. It is still out of stock on my Baker & Taylor order. But the way you speak of this film the anticipation of finally being able to stoke my wood stove up and sit back and watch and digest MO is killing me. ](*,)

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mfunk9786
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#117 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Feb 04, 2009 12:15 pm

I enjoyed every minute of this one, and I'm still trying to talk the missus into giving it a try. It's not going well.

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Michael
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#118 Post by Michael » Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:03 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:I enjoyed every minute of this one, and I'm still trying to talk the missus into giving it a try. It's not going well.
LQ? She's probably being bewitched by the magic and charm of New Orleans. Give her some time.

Is that your first Sirk?

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LQ
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#119 Post by LQ » Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:26 pm

We don't leave 'til Friday, so that's no excuse ;) Now that I've been called out though, I suppose I have to watch it. Someone a few pages back deemed it a "soppy melodrama" and unlike that poster, I typically do not enjoy such films!

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mfunk9786
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#120 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:12 pm

Oh LQ. You love melodrama when it's bitchy and French, give schmaltzy and American a try.

And yes, it was my first Sirk, so I had no real idea what to expect going in. What I found was a visually spectacular, soapy mess of a movie that somehow, despite the absurd plot, knew exactly what it wanted to be. I've never really seen such a film with such an absurd storyline keep its focus so effortlessly. I was riveted even if I knew what was coming.

Would I be well-served by going for All That Heaven Allows next?

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swo17
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#121 Post by swo17 » Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:27 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:Would I be well-served by going for All That Heaven Allows next?
Does the pope wear a funny hat?

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HerrSchreck
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#122 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:38 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:Oh LQ. You love melodrama when it's bitchy and French, give schmaltzy and American a try.

And yes, it was my first Sirk, so I had no real idea what to expect going in. What I found was a visually spectacular, soapy mess of a movie that somehow, despite the absurd plot, knew exactly what it wanted to be. I've never really seen such a film with such an absurd storyline keep its focus so effortlessly. I was riveted even if I knew what was coming.

Would I be well-served by going for All That Heaven Allows next?
Don't even think of having a complete collection of Essential Cinema without it, or ponder the mise en scene of Fassbinder or Haynes.

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Michael
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#123 Post by Michael » Wed Feb 04, 2009 4:39 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:Would I be well-served by going for All That Heaven Allows next?
Fucking yes!

And then Written on the Wind and Imitation of Life. And then Fassbinder's Ali: Fear Eats the Soul and Haynes' Far From Heaven.

All That Heaven Allows and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul are knock-out masterpieces, among the finest pieces of cinema. ( It's always so jawdroppingly fascinating to see how Fassbinder "updated" ATHA to 70s Germany, both films also featuring a romantic hero played by a gay actor). But I don't feel the same way about Far From Heaven even though it's a fantastic film.

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HerrSchreck
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#124 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Feb 04, 2009 5:05 pm

Sadly I've never been able to jibe with WITW or IoLife.

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Matt
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Re: 457 Magnificent Obsession

#125 Post by Matt » Wed Feb 04, 2009 6:23 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:Sadly I've never been able to jibe with WotW or IoLife.
They're both exquisite corpses to me, too. Beautiful to look at but stiff as boards. The "jazz interludes" in each are astounding set pieces, but neither film really works as a whole. All That Heaven Allows is really on another level from Sirk's other films.

I must say I am looking forward to the MoC A Time to Love... because I remember liking it quite a bit. Or maybe I just like looking at John Gavin in a uniform.

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