“Boy, that turned up nose sure is getting you down.”
As much as I wish this was in Technicolor, this is so great. I mean, Douglas Sirk just knows how to make a movie, you know? His visuals are so sumptuous and emotional AND funny – he can layer six different feelings into every shot. This is cinema.
What I’ve found, in my brief exploration of his work so far, is that, despite the clear satirical undertones of his films, Sirk also really cares about his characters. He’s laughing at the world around them, sure, but he’s not laughing at them.
And that secret sincerity is what makes this sing. You could probably predict every beat of this film from around the 25 minute mark, but that doesn’t matter. Real pain is powerful no matter how obvious it is.
There’s this moment about halfway through this which encapsulates everything Sirk does perfectly; Rock Hudson and Dorothy Malone share their first, illicit kiss in Hudson’s apartment mere feet from Malone’s child. Suddenly, a random party-goer from a neighbouring apartment bursts in through the door in a fucking skeleton mask. And it’s ridiculous. Sirk is clearly laughing at how artificial that moment is.
But, at the same time, that moment works as a microcosm of the true tragedy at the heart of the film; death’s spectre is at the heart of every great act of emotion. There would be no acts of heroism, no runs through airports, no tearful goodbyes, no New Year’s speeches – not without the very real chance that we could be gone at any moment, that this is perhaps our ONLY chance to make our move.
That is the true commonality of all the people. That fear, and that desire to make good on our time. Robert Stack may seem callous and wild here, but he just wants to impress his girl, he wants to show off to the reporter, he wants to make his son proud. He’s the same as Hudson the same as Malone.
Every outside is just another moon orbiting a different Earth.
“[I was fired] for believing that you were a strange, beautiful creature from an un-Earthly planet.”