Today I watched Written on the Wind, directed in 1956 by Douglas Sirk. It's a really good (almost funny) melodramatic film about love affairs. Kyle, a wealthy and drunken son of a oil tycoon, marries Lucy, a strong woman who is an executive secretary who works in New York. Kyle's best friend, Mitch, falls in love with Lucy. He keeps his feelings secret for a long time. Kyle's drunken and trampy sister Marylee has been in love with Mitch for a long time, and is jealous of Mitch's focus on Lucy. If this sounds like a soap opera, its because it basically is one.
Ebert writes that the film is supposed to be satirical, saying, "To appreciate a film like ``Written on the Wind'' probably takes more sophistication than to understand one of Ingmar Bergman's masterpieces, because Bergman's themes are visible and underlined, while with Sirk the style conceals the message. His interiors are wildly over the top, and his exteriors are phony--he wants you to notice the artifice, to see that he's not using realism but an exaggerated Hollywood studio style. The Manhattan skyline in an early scene is obviously a painted backdrop. The rear-projected traffic uses cars that are 10 years too old. The swimming hole at the river, where the characters make youthful promises they later regret, is obviously a tank on a sound stage with fake scenery behind it" (The Great Movies, 507-508). All of the weird and tacky parts are supposed to be funny- which makes me feel better about laughing at so much of it. The father of Kyle and Marylee sits at a desk with a picture of himself over it. Later, Marylee cries at the desk and strokes an oil derrick as if it were...well, you can imagine.
I don't really like soap operas, but I like this. It was so over the top and goofy. I know my mom, who has watched one soap opera since she was 14 (which she still records and watches it now!) would really appreciate this movie. I sort of get why people love the melodrama. It's like why I watch horrible reality TV. There is something nice about a movie or show that just sort of flat-lines your brain for a little while. For sure, you need to think about this film a little, but not much. It's a great movie if you like "so-bad-it's-good" sort of films. I know that the director intended the film to be funny and satirical, but I'm trying to make a vaguely helpful suggestion. :) Let me know if you check it out!
Ok, I think I covered what I could! Check out Ebert's essay for more about this movie, it's a great one.
Also, this is the last movie out of The Great Movies. Maybe a celebration of some kind is in order? I'm quite proud of myself for actually watching a movie a day and sticking with this!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Written on the Wind