17 February 2001 | coop-16
Sirk film without Sirk=disaster
James Gould Cozzens wrote two novels that were truly great-Guard of Honor and the Just and the Unjust--and ,occasionally, melodramatic junk that was wildly over praised at the time of publication.The ne plus ultra of his ;iterary artlessness was undoubtedly By Love Possessed. When it was published, it was a wildly praised best -seller. The only dissents came from Dwight McDonald, who wrote a hilarious assault on the book called "By Cozzens Possessed", and William F.Buckley, Jr. who took a page and a half to sink it beneath the waves in his National Review. Of course, like all melodramatic best sellers, it eventually had to be made into a Hollywood film. However, the only Hollywood directors at the time capable of making it into a good movie were Sirk (and maybe, just maybe, Preminger).Sirk, in fact, with his exquisitely controlled irony, and his insight into American manners and mores would have produced a chilly, superbly calibrated, yet compassionate melodrama, comparable to All that Heaven Allows, Written on The Wind, or Imitation of Life. Unfortunatly, Sirk had fled Hollywood, and Preminger was busy making Advise and Consent. So the decadent Hollywood system in its "genius' gave it John Sturges. Result: a movie that looks like a Sirk film( thanks to Russell Metty), sounds like a Sirk film, and has the cast and plot of a Sirk film..but isn't a Sirk film. Result..bloated, turgid, melodrama, without a drop of genuine wit, irony, compassion , or human insight. Well, maybe Cozzens deserved it, at least for this one. On the other hand, having carefully read Guard of Honor and The Just and the Unjust, both could be made into superb films-with the right direction and/or cast. Paul Thomas Anderson, are you paying attention?