1956: Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk)

Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.

After I first watched Written on the Wind, I wrote to my cinephile friends and told them that I felt it, more than anything else I had ever seen, influenced David Lynch’s use of color as well as some of his more sentimental tendencies. At the time, I was already a huge Lynch fan, but this was the first Sirk film that completely blew me away.

So many things work so well for me in this one: The colors, the music, the production design, the camera movements, the acting, the locations and the story. It’s one of those rare film experiences where I’m hooked from the first frame, and then Sirk only grabs hold of me more as the story goes on.

There’s an epic feeling at work (even though the film is only about 100 minutes long), and the tragedy is pitched at an extremely high level. But what really gets me is the incredible humanity Sirk is able to express, despite the fact that he’s working in the “exaggerated realm” of melodrama.

I can’t remember ever liking Rock Hudson more. Nor can I remember seeing a more tragic view of friendship or a depiction of the South that feels any more real, truthful and penetrating. I can’t recommend this one enough. To my eyes, it’s a staggering artistic achievement, incredibly ambitious and almost flawlessly executed.

What moviemakers can learn: Very few moviemakers have proven really adept at melodrama. But in the right hands, like Douglas Sirk’s, melodrama can achieve an atmosphere and strength of emotion that is different from conventional drama.

Other contenders for 1956: This is a year where there are a number of things I still need to see. These include: Alain Resnais’ Toute la mémoire du monde, Ingmar Bergman’s Sawdust and Tinsel, George Cukor’s Bhowani Junction and Satyajit Ray’s Aparajito. For some reason, I’ve yet to fully connect with John Ford’s The Searchers. I’ll keep revisiting it, and hopefully one day it will have the impact on me that it’s had on so many others. I really like the following films from this year: Vincente Minnelli’s Lust for Life, Fritz Lang’s While the City Sleeps, Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. I love Roger Vadim’s …And God Created Woman, Budd Boetticher’s Seven Men from Now, Kenji Mizoguchi’s Street of Shame and Robert Bresson’s A Man Escaped. My closest runner-up is one of my favorite noirs of all time, Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work, raising money for his next feature, Peril.