Imitation Of Life

Please Note: This film is no longer showing at Railroad Square Cinema

New Digital Restoration!
“Melodrama. Tear jerker. Women’s picture.” These were the terms derisively hurled at director Douglas Sirk, trivializing some of the greatest films ever made. And Imitation of Life, his final film, was the greatest of all, a women’s picture indeed, about gender, class, and race that may still be ahead of its time, though it was wildly popular when it was released in 1959—and has the ability to move and—yes! literally bring us to tears now, in this unbelievably sumptuous restoration. “The toughest-minded, most irresolvable movie ever made about race in this country. For all its reputation as a relentless tearjerker, this story of Annie (the peerless Juanita Moore), a black maid trying to hold on to a light-skinned daughter determined to pass as white, is characterized by Sirk’s deeply ironic control. That’s most apparent in Sirk’s handling of Lana Turner as Lora, Annie’s boss, the generous stage star who is nonetheless oblivious that the opportunities she takes for granted aren’t available to everyone. Annie exists in the real world Lora never really has to. What makes the movie so thorny is that Lora’s is the world Annie’s daughter Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner, in a fierce performance) aspires to—and Sirk refuses to judge her for that. Sirk lays out the life Sarah Jane would settle for and dares us to impugn her desire to escape. He never condescends to his material, but he questions every motive, relentlessly showing us the delusions each character is caught in. The depth and bitterness of Sirk’s irony, his refusal to provide easy answers, shames those who’d bring any less to this American masterpiece.”—Charles Taylor, Village Voice. Unrated. 125 minutes.

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