Quick-Thoughts: Douglas Sirk’s Written on the Wind (1956)

Maybe it’s because I was paying attention to it more this time, but the blocking and color coordination in this Douglas Sirk feature felt particularly Fassbinder to me: intricate character to item placement and their final symbolic solo lingers complimented with a less saturated glow but darker earth tones — though they make the reds, yellows, and gray-blues really LEAP — for alls pallet; the industrial Welles-esc sustained camera soaring of layered composition morphings gets its fair share here not to mention; also the mirror shots and whatnot of course. We’re two movies into his career and I’m already convinced Sirk is a master of visual craft almost to the mind-blowing tea of his spiritual successor. 

Even if the breaking point for me becoming truly immersed in these usually quick-plotted to quick-evolve melodramas are that they are usually… quick-plotted to quick-evolve, Sirk at least has a technical way of going about them that always heightens the intensity compared to much of what I’ve seen from the genre. A sudden death scene to theatrically coincide with the counter situation at hand during just the right time? Let a naughty antagonist play some overpowering Bing Crosby on top of it to really let the moment hit and keep us thoughtless from the fact of disbelief; such and such could work too whilst a plot-yearned manipulation, a poetic miscarriage, you name it. And, if the dialogue is to be blatantly overplayed, then by golly let it be as sharp, telling, and quotable as it was in Sirk’s previous motion picture

The Hadleys are the hopeless playboys, playgirls, and the connected under-classed are their pets that they have the bare minimum of power to keep in a desperate line just for their non-reachable end goals; together they’re the toxic cross-family of the born to be spoiled and learnt to be gifted. However, it’ll take the spoiled in particular countless failures at the cost of themselves and others throughout the decades to realize that you can’t always get what you want, even at your wealthiest. Your privilege becomes your personality’s weakness, the only hole that can invert it. Sirk lets this cinematically spill in both prime old-fashions and some daring revolutions to heighten them. 

And f**k yeah I like musical villain themes. Marylee got that Disney character evil in her arc so deservedly so!

Verdict: B+

“Written on the Wind” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

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