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74

Winter of Our Discontent
Topic by: Eoliano
Posted: December 10, 2002 - 12:49 PM PST
Last Reply: January 9, 2003 - 4:15 PM PST

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author topic: Winter of Our Discontent
Eoliano
post #1  on December 10, 2002 - 12:49 PM PST  
Bravo! A thoroughly insightful and excellent piece, David. You obviously enjoyed the film in much the same way as I did. And speaking of "aw shucks", think about those children and where their lives are headed and who they might become.
dwhudson
post #2  on December 10, 2002 - 1:57 PM PST  
Eoliano wrote:
> You obviously enjoyed the film in much the same way as I did.

Absolutely.

> And speaking of "aw shucks", think about those children and where their lives are headed and who they might become.

This is *really* one of the most haunting aspects of the film. I kept thinking that the kids were treated the way children of royalty were treated centuries ago -- and all that implies about the place of the nuclear family in the America of the 50s.

How much of this was exaggerated? Rosenbaum is critical of Haynes on this point, but I'm not so sure. Of course, at *some* point, a real life Frank would have at least tossed a ball back and forth with his son in the backyard for an hour, if for no other reason than because that's just what one does. I wouldn't say the majority of kids in the Whitackers' social class grew up as isolated, but I'd bet good money many did.
Eoliano
post #3  on December 10, 2002 - 5:42 PM PST  
I hope that most of us baby-boomers were subliminally aware that Frank tossed the ball around with his son before becoming insensitive to his son's needs; he obviously did pay more attention to his children and his wife before this. It was there, and you got a sense of it, but he lost that aspect of his responsibilities to being a father and husband; Haynes intentionally left that out since it didn't serve his purpose. Obviously, at this point in Frank's life, he's much too overwhelmed by his own repression.

Well, much of the film is vigorously exaggerated; it was quite deliberate, as we can see throughout all aspects of the film, especially in moments like the one on the street when the bigot confronts Raymond as he is holding Cathy back. It came out of nowhere and it was completely unexpected, but it was an accurate moment for the time and place.

Of course, it's time to revisit All That Heaven Allows. Many of the stereotypes are there in Sirk's film, but I admire Haynes' revisionism of Sirkian melodrama. It brings the Fifties up to date, so to speak. It worked for me.

dwhudson
post #4  on December 11, 2002 - 9:26 AM PST  
Eoliano wrote:

> he obviously did pay more attention to his children and his wife before this.

I agree -- and with your other points as well. The way the son keeps popping up with, "Dad! You wouldn't believe what happened at school today!", you can tell that this was the way a lot of conversations got started in the past. And Dad used to care; you can see the surprise and the hurt in the boy as he keeps trying and trying again, only to slowly find out Dad's got way too much on his mind these days to care anymore.

>Many of the stereotypes are there in Sirk's film, but I admire Haynes' revisionism of Sirkian melodrama. It brings the Fifties up to date, so to speak. It worked for me.

I love this bit in O'Brien's piece on the film: "...one has the sense that Haynes is having fun by messing with the proprieties of '50s cinema, showing what could not have been shown, somewhat in the manner of those "Scenes We'd Like to See" that used to be featured in Mad magazine. Here is a way to reinvent the past, to travel back in time and insert forbidden episodes, taboo locations, into the history of cinema."
Eoliano
post #5  on December 11, 2002 - 9:57 AM PST  
>> And Dad used to care; you can see the surprise and the hurt in the boy as he keeps trying and trying again, only to slowly find out Dad's got way too much on his mind these days to care anymore.

On a personal note, my father worked hard and I knew that when he got home, depending on his work load, he would or wouldn't have all that much time to spend with me, although he did, but not always. He just wanted to relax, have dinner and get some rest. Unfortunately, times have changed to the degree where children are now under supervised, given little attention, if any, and the discipline that usually follows a child's rebelliousness is often non-existent, whereas, back then, they were firmly in place. However, I digress.

>> I love this bit in O'Brien's piece on the film: "...one has the sense that Haynes is having fun by messing with the proprieties of '50s cinema, showing what could not have been shown, somewhat in the manner of those "Scenes We'd Like to See" that used to be featured in Mad magazine. Here is a way to reinvent the past, to travel back in time and insert forbidden episodes, taboo locations, into the history of cinema."

The revisionist ideas set forth by Haynes in Far From Heaven are exactly as you say, right out of Mad, although even back in it's heyday, there were still some subjects that were taboo in that parentally reviled publication (What, me worry?). The forbidden episodes and taboo locations really came to life and were tremendously startling eye openers, in complete context to the time and place in which they occur, even though we are watching the film in 2003. In some sense, the rules still apply.

dpowers
post #6  on January 2, 2003 - 8:42 AM PST  
you know of all the sirk devices haynes worked into the movie, it's too bad he messed around so much with the lighting methods. some of the dramatic confrontations in the house were lit in modern ways for "tension" and "distance" when i wanted full lighting, to see the actors.
Eoliano
post #7  on January 2, 2003 - 1:19 PM PST  

>> you know of all the sirk devices haynes worked into the movie, it's too bad he messed around so much with the lighting methods. some of the dramatic confrontations in the house were lit in modern ways for "tension" and "distance" when i wanted full lighting, to see the actors.

You must have forgotten to take off your sunglasses!
dpowers
post #8  on January 4, 2003 - 5:27 PM PST  
> You must have forgotten to take off your sunglasses! <

you jest but i'm surprised reviews haven't compared far from heaven with yi yi for their use of conventional/nonconventional lighting. also for a nearly one-to-one thematic relationship. and for other things. in fact why the hell hasn't anyone connected these two movies. because of the sirk thing?

now who needed to take off their sunglasses.
Eoliano
post #9  on January 5, 2003 - 9:25 AM PST  

In what sense does Yi Yi relate to the films of Detef Sierck and Hayne's Far from Heaven?

Far from Heaven cinematographer Edward Lachman has done some very fine work; he certainly has used what you describe as unconventional lighting for films like The Limey, and more conventional use in Light Sleeper.
dpowers
post #10  on January 5, 2003 - 11:15 AM PST  
> In what sense does Yi Yi relate to the films of Detef Sierck and Hayne's Far from Heaven? <

(oh nobody knows him by that name! douglas sirk. douglas sirk. besides, it's "detlef.")

yi yi is virtually another remake of all that heaven allows, with heaven's mother played by yi yi's father, and the rest of the family treated like they weren't props.

haynes updated the sirk film language and laid it bare for us now. yang put a similar story completely in the present and developed every relationship he could find to try to let it run its course, to discover how such a story worked when you couldn't just treat the children like hostile witnesses or the neighbors as busybody jerks or mr. right (rock hudson/issey ogata/dennis haysbert) as jesus.

if people really didn't notice this, then maybe all this talk lately about the resurgence of melodrama is just more trendy crap.
dpowers
post #11  on January 5, 2003 - 11:34 AM PST  
> if people really didn't notice this, then maybe all this talk lately about the resurgence of melodrama is just more trendy crap. <

i take this back, too. if people really didn't notice this connection, then that goes a long way to explaining why no chinese movies showed up high on that sight and sound poll. maybe people didn't see this connection because they weren't looking for it, the way they would automatically if a european or an american says "i'm making a melodrama."

a chinese filmmaker, no, a taiwanese filmmaker, educated and employed in the united states for years, who grew up in the part of china that wanted to be america's sex toy, who makes a melodrama, automatically isn't speaking an international melodrama language, in which sirkian is a big influence?

i missed it. it took a superficial similarity with far from heaven to point it out, but i'm excusing myself in that i saw yi yi a year and a half and hundreds of movies before i saw all that heaven allows.

now people thought yi yi was a great movie, no question. it won acclaim and got to the top of best lists. but if i bet if it had been a more obvious "comment" on the form, people would have been swooning over it the way they're doing over far from heaven. it was too good, too subtle, for its own reputation!

wow i'm really getting pissed off.
dpowers
post #12  on January 5, 2003 - 12:02 PM PST  
dammit edward yang even divided out the conflicting elements of "mr. right" -- freedom in thought, freedom in love -- and gave them individual attention. and he gave the members of the family the device of the grandma in the coma to speak their minds on their own, a big taboo in melodrama. unbelievable. he took all that heaven allows completely apart! fuck!
dpowers
post #13  on January 5, 2003 - 1:38 PM PST  
why you're unhappy, alphabetically by title.

ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS. heaven only lets you have so much happiness. having to choose sucks.

FAR FROM HEAVEN. you are prevented from getting what you want. which sucks.

YI YI. once you could have gotten what you wanted but your family talked you out of it. now that you know what you want, you draw so much from your relationships, freedom isn't that useful. and doesn't that suck.
Eoliano
post #14  on January 7, 2003 - 7:08 AM PST  


Haynes' film received so much attention simply because Haynes deserved the praise. The film is clearly an homage and reworking of Sirk's melodramas of the Fifties, and it works on many levels. It's doubtful that it will cause a resurgence of Sirkian melodramas.

While Yi Yi may not have received as much media attention as the Haynes film, in the long haul, it certainly will be regarded, as it is already, as a great film. And it's doubt that Far From Heaven will get such recognition when the polls have closed.
Eoliano
post #15  on January 8, 2003 - 6:51 PM PST  

Jonathan Rosenbaum's take on Far From HeavenMagnificent Repression
dpowers
post #16  on January 8, 2003 - 11:55 PM PST  
> It's doubtful that it will cause a resurgence of Sirkian melodramas. <

you mean people making movies like sirk did. that's true. but sirk movies have been playing a lot on cable, i hear.

i wonder if that kind of restriction, knocking the wind out of main characters, would work in a television series. probably it's too dry and brittle to live over many weeks.

> While Yi Yi may not have received as much media attention as the Haynes film, in the long haul, it certainly will be regarded, as it is already, as a great film. And it's doubt that Far From Heaven will get such recognition when the polls have closed. <

i don't understand the second sentence here. wait if that's "doubtful" then, i don't know what i think of that.

i think if somebody told me when blue velvet came out that it would stay interesting after the exotic fashions of its day had been abandoned, you know, because even though i saw blue velvet after twin peaks, i still think of blue velvet almost as a punk film, as sort of a hot damp repo man. anyway when i did get to see it three years ago, i was surprised it didn't seem dated.

i read jonathan rosenbaum's long review, and the later comments in his best of 2002 article. he keeps seeing the movie, he's continually intrigued and rewarded by it in ways that he says/admits might be related to his having grown up immersed in the source material. i have a hard time seeing any movie more than once.

that's a big difference about his attitude toward the film and mine - okay i'm not comparing us or our writing but i think it's worth saying -i don't stop and look again at movies whose secrets are hidden by their novelty or their peculiar rhythms, and because of that, i don't think i get as accurate a sense of any particular movie as i would want to be really comfortable writing about it.
Eoliano
post #17  on January 9, 2003 - 5:55 AM PST  
>> but sirk movies have been playing a lot on cable, i hear.

They always reappear on the tube from time to time.


>> i wonder if that kind of restriction, knocking the wind out of main characters, would work in a television series

You said it; it would knock the wind out of a series, and there's little likelihood of a serious melodramatic series on TV, since TV producers seem to want action, gore and sitcoms.

>> anyway when i did get to see it three years ago, i was surprised it [blue velvet] didn't seem dated.

I hope not, since it was considered ahead of its time, avant-garde and all, and it's not that old!


>> i have a hard time seeing any movie more than once.

That's unfortunate; I just watched Sunset Blvd. yet again last night for the umpteenth time I guess, and am still impressed with Wilder's savagery and cynical humor.

>> that's a big difference about his attitude toward the film and mine & i don't think i get as accurate a sense of any particular movie as i would want to be really comfortable writing about it.

That's where repeated viewing comes in. I know that when I'm in a particular city and there's a museum with paintings I enjoy, that I'll return to that museum and seek out those works. And cinematic art is no less accessible. In fact, it is more so, since you can watch in your home, or better, at your local theater. After a second viewing of a recent film, I realized that I was able to see more of its structure and what was or wasn't wrong with the film, not to mention enjoying other aspects of the film that I hadn't grasped the first time because I was preoccupied with following dialogue and/or other elements.




dpowers
post #18  on January 9, 2003 - 11:04 AM PST  
> I hope not, since it was considered ahead of its time, avant-garde and all, and it's not that old! <

that kind of old happens very very fast. like being able to look at a movie and say, "ah yes, i remember 1991." i'm really good at picking out the year a movie was made, styles are so prominent. it's hard to make a movie completely ageless.

> I just watched Sunset Blvd. yet again last night for the umpteenth time I guess, and am still impressed with Wilder's savagery and cynical humor. <

thing is in four years i'm only now a quarter of the way into the list of movies i want to see. discarding a third of them because i'll never get the chance, i still have more than i can see in ten years ahead of me. but the big thing i've learned is, seeing something again is really good, but there's always, always another movie out there that turns this movie on its head, and that's what i think is cool about living in a world as one of billions of people, billions of repetitions of the same devices and desires.


> I know that when I'm in a particular city and there's a museum with paintings I enjoy, that I'll return to that museum and seek out those works. And cinematic art is no less accessible. <

good point.

> After a second viewing of a recent film, I realized that I was able to see more of its structure and what was or wasn't wrong with the film, not to mention enjoying other aspects of the film that I hadn't grasped the first time because I was preoccupied with following dialogue and/or other elements. <

i have become much better at getting into a movie than i used to be. it's a strange experience. without losing the nuances of the story, i can pick out rumbles and tugs under the surface. i used to obsess over plot holes and continuity problems but now, i feel like, those problems were left there because the filmmakers assumed the audience would provide the needed closure - those kinds of problems aren't that important.
Eoliano
post #19  on January 9, 2003 - 11:51 AM PST  
>> it's hard to make a movie completely ageless.

That's not necessarily the intention at the time a film is made; it simply becomes a period film after so many decades and the film winds up representing that time.

Whether a film ages poorly is another matter entirely, and it's usually due to the fact that it's a bad film with terrible production values. For example, takes the Seventies, and compare Eyes of Laura Mars with The Conversation; which film holds up better and survives the test of time and why?

>> i used to obsess over plot holes and continuity problems but now, i feel like, those problems were left there because the filmmakers assumed the audience would provide the needed closure - those kinds of problems aren't that important.

No, they're not. An intellegently made film shouldn't pander to, or condescend to its audience. Let's hope that a director leaves some things to our imagination, and/or is crafty enough to leave subtle clues, whether allusive or otherwise, to entice us and bring us back. It's like those paintings beckoning me to come back inside the museum to gaze at them again and again.
dpowers
post #20  on January 9, 2003 - 11:59 AM PST  
> plot holes and continuity problems ... were left there because the filmmakers assumed the audience would provide the needed closure <

okay and, i love it when people say that these problems are an insult to the audience's intelligence ... first, are we just monkeys, or toddlers, screaming about breaks in routine? second, mostly, it's a compliment when a story has big gaps in it. the filmmakers are saying, "you know what goes here. let's get on to the good stuff."

on the other hand the mama-licking-air gaff in bambi is pretty funny. how they managed that one i don't understand.

anyway bringing it back, far from heaven is so much a collage that nobody even expects a sequential story. pretty cool.
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