ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS [1955 / 2014] [The Criterion Collection] [Blu-ray + DVD] [USA Release] 1955 American Drama Romance Movie directed by Douglas Sirk!
This heartbreakingly beautiful indictment of 1950’s American mores by Douglas Sirk follows the blossoming love between a well-off widow Cary Scott [Jane Wyman] and her handsome and earthy younger gardener Ron Kirby [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, and Douglas 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.
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FILM FACT No.1: Awards and Nominations: 1995 National Film Preservation Board, USA: Win: National Film Registry for the film ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS.’
FILM FACT No.2: Universal-International Pictures wanted to follow up on the pairing of Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson from Douglas Sirk's ‘Magnificent Obsession’ . Douglas Sirk found the screenplay for ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’ “rather impossible,” but was able to restructure it and use the big budget to film and edit the work exactly the way he wanted. Jane Wyman was only 38 when she played the film's “older woman” who scandalizes society and her grown-up children by becoming engaged to a younger man. Rock Hudson, “the younger man,” was 30 at the time. The music that often plays throughout the film is Consolation No.3 in D-flat major by Franz Liszt along with frequent snatches of the finale to Brahms's First Symphony, the latter rescored and sometimes elaborated. Also heard intermittently is “Warum” (German for “Why?”) by Robert Schumann, from the Fantasiestücke, Op. 12. Douglas Sirk considered having Rock Hudson's character die at the end of the film, but the film's producer, Ross Hunter, would not allow it, as he wanted a more positive ending. Some exteriors for the film were shot on “Colonial Street.” a studio backlot built by Paramount Pictures on the property of Universal Studios four years earlier and used in the film ‘The Desperate Hours.’ The set was re-designed to mimic an upper-middle class, New England town. The film contains only one visible crane shot in which the camera scans over the fictional town of Stoningham, seen during the opening credits. Tracking and dollying shots are used frequently for interior shots. The set was later featured on the television series “Leave It to Beaver.”
Cast: Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Agnes Moorehead, Conrad Nagel, Virginia Grey, Gloria Talbott, William Reynolds, Charles Drake, Hayden Rorke, Jacqueline deWit, Leigh Snowden, Donald Curtis, Alex Gerry, Nestor Paiva, Forrest Lewis, Tol Avery, Merry Anders, Helen Andrews (uncredited), Eleanor Audley (uncredited), Lillian Culver (uncredited), Jack Davidson (uncredited), Alan DeWitt (uncredited), Helen Dickson (uncredited), Donna Jo Gribble (uncredited), Jim Hayward (uncredited), Helene Heigh (uncredited), David Janssen (uncredited), Anthony Jochim (uncredited), Paul Keast (uncredited), Jack Lomas (uncredited), Helen Mayon (uncredited), Joseph Mell (uncredited), Forbes Murray (uncredited), Vernon Rich (uncredited), Gia Scala (uncredited), Charles Sherlock (uncredited), Edna Smith (uncredited), Paul Smith (uncredited) and Rosa Turich (uncredited)
Director: Douglas Sirk
Producer: Ross Hunter
Screenplay: Peg Fenwick (screenplay), Edna L. Lee (story) and Harry Lee (story)
Composer: Frank Skinner
Costumes: Bill Thomas (gowns)
Technicolor Color Consultant: William Fritzsche
Cinematography: Russell Metty, A.S.C. (Director of Photography)
Image Resolution: 1080p (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1 (Anamorphic)
Audio: English: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio
English: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono Audio
Running Time: 88 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 3
Studio: Universal International / The Criterion Collection
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’  sees director Douglas Sirk’s definitive statement on human nature, now gets a definitive, sparkling Blu-ray release. ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’ is one of the most incisive looks at America’s untenable racist passive-aggression on the cusp of the civil rights breakthroughs of the 1960’s rags-to-riches saga. It’s rapturous and clinical, warm and cold.
The setting is autumn in an insular, affluent New England town, never named but probably adjacent to Eisenhower Ville. Lonely widow Cary Scott [Jane Wyman] is having her ochre tree branches clipped by Ron Kirby [Rock Hudson], a barrel-chested baritone whom she decides to accompany to the countryside where he’s nursing a fledgling forest of underage silver-tipped spruces and living life the way he wants, which is to say according to the recommendations of Henry David Thoreau. Cary Scott’s faced with a future of entertaining suitors who drop her off at the doorstep all but promising sexless consolation nuptials, which Cary Scott’s egghead psychology-major daughter Kay Scott endorses: “As Freud says, when a man reaches a certain age, sex becomes incongruous.”
Consequently, Cary Scott hops aboard the boho-a-go-go and seems ready to eat life and venison with fervour until her children and social circles catch wind of her affair with the younger, poorer stud. It quickly dawns on Cary Scott that the friends and family who say they only want her to be happy neglected to mention on whose terms. “Situations like this bring out the hateful side of human nature,” reasons Cary Scott’s best friend, Sara [Agnes Moorhead], in the same breath she uses to spit out the dozens of hypothetical things “people will say.”
‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’ is the essence of a film that functions with different layers, which gives this tale of romance, sacrifice and heart break so much more meaning. And there are more layers than just these which combine to make it such a compelling and touching story. On top of all this you have to say that director Douglas Sirk also has an eye for a great shot from those in the garden of Cary Scott's home to the old mill where Ron lives. It's hard not to fall in love with the mill and the huge glass window which looks out over nature especially when we have snowy scenes. Yes it does go a little too far as we watch Ron Kirby get close with nature but this is the sort of home anyone would love to own.
But most of all, take extra care to view the beautiful Technicolor, the lighting, the camera angles and movements, the performances, the music! Especially being presented with a gorgeous new digital restoration of ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’ perfectly encapsulates the all-encompassing style of director Douglas Sirk, who employed the conventions of Hollywood cinema to their most expressive potential. Especially watch how Douglas Sirk frames Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson against a series of backdrops visually imbued with emotion, as their characters passionately discuss their forbidden love.
What this all boils down to is that ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’ is a good old fashioned melodrama, but also much more with director Douglas Sirk demonstrating that an obvious set up can become so much more by focusing on what lies beneath. It is touching and powerful, beautiful and romantic and features brilliant performances from Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson who set the screen alight with their chemistry.
‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’ is a true wonder of a film, deeply complex yet so simple in its telling, a brief 89-minute film that asks the most fundamental of questions – Who am I? Why am I here? – Emotionally charged drama. It’s spiritually-charged, but far from dogmatic; exploratory and curious, never resolute. Director Douglas Sirk’s compositions are so carefully arranged, one might call him suffocating, and yet his film feels vast, fully lived-in yet far from lived out.
Not recognized or appreciated in its day, ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’ may seem like kind of an odd choice for The Criterion Collection. But there is much more to admire about this Technicolor 1950’s Douglas Sirk melodrama, which drastically differs from its contemporaries both visually and dramatically. Highly dated in some ways yet ahead of its time in others, this is exactly the kind of film that welcomes the type of thought and reflection that only The Criterion Collection can release it on this magnificent Blu-ray disc.
ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS MUSIC TRACK LIST
Consolation No.3 in D flat major (uncredited) (Music by Franz Liszt)
Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op.68: 4th movement (the Alpenhorn melody) (uncredited) (Music by Johannes Brahms)
JOY TO THE WORLD (uncredited) (Lyrics by Isaac Watts) (Music by Lowell Mason)
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Blu-ray Image Quality – Universal International and The Criterion Collection presents us this film ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’ with a stunning 1080p restoration Technicolor image and enhanced with 1.75:1 aspect ratio, which is a vast improvement over the earlier inferior DVD release, and gives you something that is now enormously impressive, especially with the massive upgrade in quality visual splendour with this Blu-ray release. Mastered in 2K resolution from the original 35 mm camera negative, the all-new digital transfer looks splendid, beautifully showcasing Russell Metty's exquisitely rich cinematography. The image has a lovely grain structure that maintains the feel of celluloid; the picture is distinguished by superior clarity and contrast, as well as a vibrant colour palette that bursts with intense saturation. Brilliant blues, from the deep-coloured sky and pale shade of Sara's station wagon to the warm cast of diffused darkness that floods several interior rooms – dominate the screen, but the rust-coloured autumn foliage and numerous red accents, most noticeable in lipstick and Cary Scott's evening dress, possess plenty of pop. As usual, The Criterion Collection steers clear of any noticeable digital tinkering, like noise reduction or edge enhancement. Yes, a bit of noise can be seen in large solid expanses, such as the sky, but it blends into the grain structure and doesn't distract. ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’ has always been regarded as a feast for the eyes, and thankfully, this impeccable Blu-ray rendering does the film proud. Technicolor fanatics will be very pleased indeed. According to the notes on the transfer, The Criterion Collection considered every aspect ratio between 1.37:1 and 2.00:1, so instead, supported any of these decisions, before landing on 1.75:1 aspect ratio, an increasingly-common compromise for them, but one I feel serves this film very well. A full frame presentation would leave too much space in Cary Scott’s world, and a wider ratio would not only close the space around her too much, it would also lose much of the outstanding production design.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – Universal International and The Criterion Collection brings us the film ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’ with one standard 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio experience. The sound, for the most part, is nicely reproduced, with plenty of presence and depth. The string-laden music score by Frank Skinner comes across especially well, with superior fidelity lending the ultra-romantic themes a wonderful full-bodied feel. A wide dynamic scale manages all the highs and lows, although hints of distortion occasionally creep in at odd moments. Though most of the dialogue is recited in measured, subdued tones, every conversation is clear and easily comprehendible, and atmospherics are mixed in well, too, delicately augmenting various scenes, but never competing with primary elements. No hiss or crackles could be heard, but a few errant pops crop up from time to time. Unfortunately, this audio track isn't perfect, but for an almost 60-year-old film, the audio sounds surprisingly good, and only the most discriminating audiophiles will rue its minor faults.
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Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
2K digital restoration
Special Feature: Audio Commentary features John Mercer and Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald  [1080p] [1.75:1] [88:48] With this featurette, we are informed that this was recorded in 2014 for The Criterion Collection, and this audio commentary features Film Scholars John Mercer [Melodrama: Genre, Style, Sensibility Paperback] and Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald. To listen to this audio commentary while viewing the movie ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS,’ press the AUDIO key button on your remote control and select 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono Audio experience. As the film starts, first to talk about the film is John Mercer who resides at the Birmingham School of Media in the UK and is a Director of Researcher Education and Development, Professor of Gender and Sexuality and next up to introduce themselves is Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald who is Head of School of Arts, Reader at the University of Kent in the UK. John Mercer says that Douglas Sirk’s Universal melodrama that probably has the longest afterlife, and really it is the film that has become most closet to being associated with what we now understand is a true Douglas Sirk’s directional intelligent style of movie making. Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald feels it is very interesting we start with the film title ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS,’ and we are up there with the clock tower and then the camera pans down to where we are going from heaven down to earth, where things are not so heavenly. But what we are seeing here is an idealised vision of small town America. It is a sort of a sequel to capitalise on the success the film ‘MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION,’ which was released a year before. Of course it has the same actors like Jayne Wyman, Rock Hudson and Agnes Moorhead, and interesting also they have the same technical staff, including Bill Tomas the costume designer, and of course Russell Metty, A.S.C. (Director of Photography) who has worked with actors like Orson Welles in the film ‘Touch of Evil,’ and has also worked for director Stanley Kubrick on the film ‘Spartacus.’ Bill Thomas also worked on twelve different films and has had over 150 different film credits, and most importantly perhaps was the producer Ross Hunter and he was the top producer at Universal, and also worked on the film ‘Pillow Talk.’ Ross Hunter begged Douglas Sirk to make audiences weep, and that is what this film ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’ is all about. So right from the outset, Technicolor is linked to the character, especially right throughout the film, but most of all, Technicolor and the costumes are equally important throughout the film, and there is also a very important costume narrative running throughout the film ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS.’ From then on as we go through the audio commentary with John Mercer and Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald are very engaging and give us a highly intelligent audio commentary that provides in-depth analysis of the movie and its themes. These two Brits offer a very engaging screen-specific discussion that satisfactorily addresses both the film's depictions in terms of 1950’s morals and its technical compositions. There's never any doubt the two speakers know their stuff and could go on at greater length about any one of the makers, especially Douglas Sirk, each of whose changing critical perception is discussed. The duo doesn't impart much in the way of biographical or production information, but they raise a variety of interesting points, such as the link between the Technicolor, costume, and characters, also director Douglas Sirk's penchant for framing and reflective surfaces to depict emotional tone, and how the film presents an idealized version of small-town life. A discussion of the melodrama dominates a big chunk of this track, but the pair also evaluates Hudson's talent, examines the rediscovery of Douglas Sirk in the late 1960s, and criticises the movie's ending. Film Scholars John Mercer and Tamar Jeffers-McDonald is a very enjoyable audio commentary, especially talking about the film in general, as well as the criticisms of social classes Douglas Sirk’s use of lighting to spell out moods or feelings in scenes or characters. But when it comes to the social themes within the film, I doubt many viewers who have seen the film already will find anything too surprising. The audio track gets more interesting when they give some historical context and talk about the film’s initial release and reactions to it, talk about director Douglas Sirk’s other work, commenting on Rock Hudson’s acting ability, and also when they’re criticizing some of the more dated sexist elements found within it. Despite film scholar John Mercer constantly plugging his book, but in fact never actually mentions the title his book, so all in all, it’s an engaging enough audio track. As we get near to the end of the film John Mercer and Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald says, I think the sub text to the ending of the film, is really poignant, and is none the less there, and finally we get to see Cary Scot [Jayne Wyman] get her man at the end of the film, but at what cost? Also there is a sense here, with an explicit sense irony that the only way an older woman can have an adult relationship with a much younger man and of course if Cary Scot reverts back to the role of a nurse or even a mother, feels there might be hope after all, and it is extremely ironic with the stag appearing at the large window with the heavy snow outside. At that point the audio commentary with John Mercer and Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald ends and up pops THE END from Universal International Picture. Those who enjoy serious dialogues about classic films will find much to like about this audio commentary with the two Brits, John Mercer and Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald, which I feel greatly enhances your viewing experience. Please Note: Due the amount of space I am allowed for reviewing this audio commentary, I have had to sadly edited out a large section of film scholars John Mercer and Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald in-depth audio commentary of the film ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’ and I hope it has not spoiled your enjoyment.
Special Feature: Rock Hudson’s Home Movies  [480i] [1.37:1] [63:49] With this featurette, we are informed that this Rock Hudson’s Home Movies was filmed in 1992, and filmmaker Mark Rappaport explores the actor Rock Hudson’s sexuality and his celebrity status through provocative mixture of voice-over narration, film clips, and live action and Mark Rappart speaks the words from Rock Hudson’s memories, especially when you see Rock Hudson’s personal private film clips of Rock Hudson’s film appearances and there are some totally hilarious gay themed film clips. This ground-breaking essay film about the actor Rock Hudson by Mark Rappaport. The documentary is about the acting career and eventual death from AIDS of actor Rock Hudson. Here we get to see Eric Farr the narrator talking to the camera as if speaking Rock Hudson's words from a diary. We get a plethora of film clips from more than 30 Rock Hudson films illustrate ways in which his sexual orientation played out on screen. We also get to see the early days of Rock Hudson and his relationships with women, and then we get clips of Rock Hudson with men, especially cruising. We also get to see Rock Hudson with his sidekick actors, especially Tony Randall. We also look in-depth at Rock Hudson’s comedies of sexual embarrassment and innuendo, such as films in which Rock Hudson sometimes plays two characters, "macho Rock Hudson and homosexual Rock Hudson," where he is masculine yet vulnerable, a hunk who needs taking care of. Then at the end of the documentary we get to view some cinematic reflections on Rock Hudson’s death. Contributors include: Lauren Bacall (archive footage), Cyd Charisse [Charlotte King], Marc Christian, Doris Day [Jan Morrow], Angie Dickinson (archive footage), Kirk Douglas (archive footage), Linda Evans (archive footage), Phyllis Gates (archive footage), Jon Hall (archive footage), Rock Hudson (archive footage), Burl Ives [Dr. Brits Jansen], Otto Kruger [Edward Randolph], Paul Lynde [Mr. Akins] and Dorothy Malone (archive footage). This featurette was produced by WATER FILMS BEARER.
Special Feature: Behind the MIRROR: A Profile of DOUGLAS SIRK  [480i] [1.37:1] [57:15] With this featurette, we get to view the following Douglas Sirk interview excerpts in his home in Lucerne, Switzerland, where we are presented with a rare 1979 BBC documentary entitled “Behind the MIRROR: A Profile of DOUGLAS SIRK,” and was produced and hosted by Mark Shivas and features interview footage with German-born American director Douglas Sirk and allows him the opportunity to discuss his German roots, disdain for the Nazis, immigration to America, and how he forged a career in Hollywood. Douglas Sirk analyses many of his films, expresses his lukewarm feelings for the CinemaScope process, and talks about how he tried to give “cheap stuff” meaning in the film ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS.’ We also get to view lots of clips from Douglas Sirk’s films and they are ‘Schlußakkord’ [‘Final Accord’] , ‘Shockproof’ , ‘Magnificent Obsession’ , ‘All That Heaven Allows’ , ‘Captain Lightfoot’ , ‘Written On The Wind’ , ‘The Tarnished Angels’ , ‘A Time to Love and a Time to Die’  and ‘Imitation of Life’ . It's always a great treat to hear an intelligent director remark on his own work, and Douglas Sirk's extensive comments shed plenty of light on his point of view in general and artistry.
Special Feature: Contract Kid: William Reynolds on Douglas Sirk  [1080i] [1.78:1] [23:04] With this featurette, we are informed that William Reynolds was a young actor under contract with Universal Studios when he played Ned Scott in the film ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS.’ In this 2007 interview, William Reynolds talks about his experiences in the studio system and films made with Douglas Sirk. We are informed that William Reynolds was born in 1931 in Los Angeles, and made his film debut in 1951. At Paramount Pictures, William Reynolds became a “contract kid” at Universal, joining the throng of attractive young “stars of the future”. William Reynolds never became a star, but was a familiar regular in many films of that period. Here the charming, dapper seventy-six year old actor who appeared in three of Douglas Sirk’s finest films, and that included ‘Has Anybody Seen My Gal’ , ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’  and ‘There’s Always Tomorrow’  and compares working with directors Douglas Sirk, William Wyler and Henry Hathaway, and highlights the contribution of cinematographer Russell Metty, and shares his impressions of actors like Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson and Barbara Stanwyck. This was a FICTION FACTORY production.
Special Feature: Cinéma Cinémas  [480i] [1.37:1] [15:53] With this featurette, we get to view a television special interview with the director Douglas Sirk in Lugano, Genève, and was directed by Pascal Thomas, and originally aired on the 14th April, 1982, and is an episode of the French television programme “Cinéma Cinémas.” The in-depth interview with Douglas Sirk looks at Rock Hudson's closet homosexuality, screen persona, personal demons, and tragic death from AIDS through the film roles that defined him as a hunky leading man during his prime and beyond. It also follows director Douglas Sirk as he travels from his home in Lugano, Switzerland to Geneva to attend a film festival of his films. The 85-year-old Douglas Sirk talks about employing windows and mirrors in his films, and his regard for cinematographer Russell Metty, whose basic “rules” of moviemaking, the importance of proper lighting and meticulous editing, the effect of music on dramatic action scenes, and his affection for melodrama and romanticism in films. Though Douglas Sirk's comments aren't particularly ground-breaking, they are delivered with commitment and authority, making this straightforward interview piece well worth viewing. Please Note: The quality of this featurette “Cinéma Cinémas” is totally atrocious.
Special Feature: Trailer  [1080p] [1.78:1] [2:32] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS.’ This has been beautifully restored, and this trailer accurately reflects the film's lushness and ultra-romantic tone.
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DVD Special Features and Extras:
DVD DISC ONE
ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS [1955 / 2014] [The Criterion Collection] [DVD] [USA Release] [1089i] [1.75:1] [88:00]
Special Feature: Audio Commentary features John Mercer and Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald  [1080p] [1.75:1] [88:42]
Special Feature: Trailer  [1080i] [1.78:1] [2:32]
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DVD DISC TWO
Special Feature: Rock Hudson’s Home Movies  [480i] [1.37:1] [63:45]
Special Feature: Behind the MIRROR: A Profile of DOUGLAS SIRK  [480i] [1.37:1] [57:12]
Special Feature: Contract Kid: William Reynolds on Douglas Sirk  [1080i] [1.78:1] [23:03]
Special Feature: Cinéma Cinémas  [480i] [1.37:1] [15:52]
BONUS: Fantastic new illustrated Blu-ray cover design by Robert Hunt who was born in 1952 and is an American illustrator and painter. Robert Hunt’s works have been commissioned by a variety of clients, including Bank of America, CBS Records, Criterion Collection, DreamWorks, Disney, Federal Express, M-G-M, The New Republic, Paramount Pictures, Random House, and Rolling Stone publication, among others.
PLUS: A beautiful printed designed 22-page booklet featuring CHAPTERS. CAST. CREDITS. An essay by Laura Mulvey entitled AN ARTICULATE SCREEN. An excerpt essay by Rainer Werner Fassbinder on filmmaker Douglas Sirk entitled FASSBINDER ON ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’ and we are informed that it is an excerpted piece director Rainer Werner Fassbinder who wrote for the February 1971 of the journal Film und Fernsehen and it was translated from the German into English by Krishna R. Winston who is currently the Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. USA. SPECIAL THANKS. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. PRODUCTION CREDITS. Lots of rare colour and black-and-white promotional images from the film.
Finally, ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’ marks the final turning point in Douglas Sirk’s strange and varied career. On the back of the film ‘Magnificent Obsession’ and its great success the previous year, Universal Pictures gave him a budget and freedom that enabled his mature style to blossom. , ‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’ contains all the elements of characteristically Douglas Sirk’s composition: light, shade, colour, and camera angles combine with his trademark use of mirrors to break up the surface of the screen. Here are all the components of the “melodramatic” style on which Douglas Sirk’s critical reputation is based and that has made him the favourite of later generations of filmmakers, from Rainer Werner Fassbinder to Quentin Tarantino, from John Waters to Pedro Almodóvar. Highly Recommended!
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