1 P.M. / $6 GENERAL / $5 SENIOR
Tuesday 2/11, 1 p.m. – Special Matinée Rate
IMITATION OF LIFE
2 hours &
“ For his last Hollywood film, released in 1959, the German director Douglas Sirk unleashed a melodramatic torrent of rage at the corrupt core of American life—the unholy trinity of racism, commercialism, and puritanism. ”
– Richard Brody, The New Yorker
“ Sirk’s Imitation of Life is in an important sense a movie about its own genre—about the genteel pop culture that it itself exemplifies. The characters do live in the world of Fannie Hurst—that is part of their interest for and connection with the rest of us. But we, the audience of the film, inhabit another level as we watch it: the “world” of Sirk’s intentions and attitudes, his famous ironic subtext.
But we were always a bit uneasy there. Most audiences, after all, take these films straight. And even the “best” audiences are not always quite sure when they are seeing tackiness, or a criticism of it, an irony, or a mistake, a failure to achieve reality, or an intended unreality, an empty gesture, or a comment on such gesturing. I would resolve such questions in favor of the films, of course, but I would not wish away the uneasiness. For it is by asking just such questions, I believe, that one finds the best way into understanding these films. And that fact alone marks the special audacity and challenge of Sirk.”
– James Harvey, Film Comment in 1978
. . . [Imitation of Life] dealt with race in a way that few other films did in that era or–to be honest–even 51 years later, examining points of view about race not only from the inside–how African Americans perceived themselves–but how White Americans viewed that self-perception. Douglas Sirk’s final film remains challenging to watch even aside from the fact that–despite its weighty issues–Sirk will make you cry.
. . . According to an article in Daily Variety at the time–Universal-International encountered some resistance to the promotion of the film and tailored its advertising campaign for the South, where, as one studio representative explained, “White southerners avoid films that are advertised as dealing with the race problem.” Hardly a surprise, to some extent those concerns cut both ways. On February 2, 1959, Hollywood Reporter reprinted the following wire sent by LA Tribune editor Almena Lomac to numerous white publications: “Imitation of Life … is a libel on the Negro race. It libels our children and the Negro mother [and] should be banned in the interest of national unity, harmony, peace, decency and inter-racial respect.” Lomac’s opposition underscores that Imitation of Life was a bold and controversial film for its time and remains totally relevant for us to see and think about today. -Michael Guillen, ScreenAnarchy.com