WHO is he?
Danish-born Hollywood film director who has made over 40 movies from the Thirties to the Seventies. Primarily known for the glossy melodramas he made with Universal Pictures during the 1950s, Sirk was dismissed as a director of “weepies” (or “women’s pictures”) by the general audience and as being too frivolous and maudlin by American critics, until his reappraisal in the later decades that sealed his status as one of the supreme artists of mainstream cinema.
WHY is he of interest?
Sirk is among the few directors who have embraced a populist form — the melodrama — blown it up and inflected with a very personal set of concerns. His compositional strategy, formal experiments and pointed mise en scène (the physical elements of a scene) became major sources of inspiration for the German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder — another artist working within the melodrama — among many other modern day filmmakers.
WHERE to discover him?
All That Heaven Allows (1955), possibly Sirk’s best film, depicts a middle-class widow (Jane Wyman) who falls in love with her gardener and gets repudiated by her upwardly-mobile children and crass neighbourhood. The film is a head-on critique of the post-war American household, the canned reality of television era and the fake sense of community provided by drab cocktail parties.