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Douglas Sirk (1897 - 1987)

Related: American cinema - director - melodrama - queer film

“This is the dialectic — there is a very short distance between high art and trash, and trash that contains an element of craziness is by this very quality nearer to art.” --Douglas Sirk

Influenced: Pedro Almodóvar - Todd Haynes - François Ozon

still from a Douglas Sirk film
image sourced here.

This is our first issue dedicated to a single director. Douglas Sirk was the logical choice. While not exactly a household word himself, some of his films were among the most famous of their time: Magnificent Obsession, Written on the Wind, Imitation of Life. Primarily dismissed as "women's pictures" or "melodramas" — hardly a reasonable approach — these and other Sirk films have withstood the test of time and are finally beginning to receive the attention due them. Some of Sirk's films are masterpieces of form, but even his worst films have something to recommend them. Perhaps sooner than we think we'll see TV Guide refer to Imitation of Life not as "a weepy" but as "one of Douglas Sirk's masterpieces." --Gary Morris via [1]


Douglas Sirk
Douglas Sirk (April 26, 1897 - January 14, 1987) was a German-born film director most well known for his work in Hollywood in the 1950s.

Hans Detlef Sierck was born in Hamburg, Germany and spread his education over three universities. He started his career in 1922 in the theatre of the Weimar Republic, including the direction of an early production of The Threepenny Opera. He joined UFA (Universum Film AG) in 1934, but left Germany in 1937. On arrival in the United States, he soon changed his Germanic name. By 1942 he was in Hollywood, directing the stridently anti-Nazi Hitler's Madman.

He made his name with a series of lush, colorful, formulaic melodramas for Universal-International Pictures from 1952 to 1958: Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows (preserved by the US National Film Registry), Written on the Wind, and Imitation of Life. But it was at the pinnacle of his high-profile accomplishments as Universal's most successful director that he left the United States and filmmaking. He died in Lugano, Switzerland nearly thirty years later, with only a brief and obscure return behind the camera in Germany in the 1970s.

His original reputation was of a competent creator of light-weight nonsense, but his work was re-examined after praise by British critics, writers of the French New Wave and the opinions of directors such as Rainer Fassbinder and, later on, Quentin Tarantino and Todd Haynes. His work is currently considered to show excellent control of the visuals, extending from lighting and framing to costumes and sets that are saturated with symbolism and shot through with subtle barbs of irony. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Sirk [Jun 2005]

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