Quick-Thoughts: Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows (1955)

Heaven better allow this level of intense color and light scheming though in the presence of its design; Holy Mother of God does this movie never not look immaculate. 

It’s not easy turning your back on tradition, tradition that has defined the behavior of nearly your entire life, even if that tradition was what belittled your independence in the first place amongst the discriminative and hypocritical social norms of your surrounding culture. The snarky and pretentious yet auguring conversation Cary and her daughter have between one another… 

“Personally, I never subscribed to that old Egyptian custom. At least I think it was Egypt.”

“What Egyptian custom?”

“Of walling up the widow alive in the funeral chamber of her dead husband along with all of his other possessions. The theory being that she was a possession too so she was supposed to journey into death with him. And the community saw it to that she did. Of course, that doesn’t happen anymore.”

“Doesn’t it? Well, perhaps not in Egypt.”

…is such brilliant set up for what becomes a proceeding hour-long exemplification of “high-class” American society ignorantly following in those same footsteps nearly millenniums later. I respect the film’s practical, anti-idealistic agenda as well, proclaiming it impossible to let everybody slip into the same philosophy as yours even if it is right; otherwise, you’d just be a tyrant. Realistically you will always be forced to definitively choose who to appeal to more often: yourself or the majority. What a clean, tight story with a crushing Phantom Thread (2017) third act!

Also, wow are there so many quotes in this that got trapped in my brain — hopefully for the long-run — even if the film is a little exorbitant of them, but at least they’re usually hella good ones! 

“‘To thine own self be true.’”

“You can’t learn that from anybody. Mick discovered for himself that he had to make his own decisions. That he had to be a man.”

“You’re asking me to give up Ron because of something in people that’s mean and contemptible.” 

“And I told him I didn’t care what people said. But, Mama, I do care! I care terribly!”

“Remember the afternoon that Freddie and I had the big fight? That’s when we found out we loved each other.”

“Drama, comedy, life’s parade at your fingertips.” 

“You were ready for a love affair, but not for love.”

I’m starting to realize why Fassbinder was obsessed with this Douglas Sirk fella; he was living in a whole other filmmaking universe for his time period. I find it wonderful too how this seems to have a meatier psychosis on the older lover than the younger lover while Fassbinder’s remake Ali: Fear Eats the Soul seems to rather have a meatier psychosis on the younger lover as opposed to the older lover. 

And final comment: Ned is such a little s**t, but I suppose *sigh* necessary to the narrative. Recall that conversation about Egypt?

Verdict: B+

“All That Heaven Allows” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

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