Director Douglas Sirk sharing a book with his actors
Director Douglas Sirk sharing a book with his actors
Stories & Ideas

Fri 01 Jul 2022

"Life's parade at your fingertips": Douglas Sirk

Film Melbourne Cinémathèque Retrospective
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Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society

Notes for the 24 August – 7 September 2022 Melbourne Cinémathèque program.

Best known as the director of a string of lavish Hollywood melodramas made for Universal Pictures in the 1950s, Douglas Sirk’s (1897–1987) feature-film career spanned almost 40 films between 1935 and 1959. He was a successful theatre director in Weimar Germany prior to transferring his passion and critical eye to the silver screen, moving from Nazi Germany to the United States in the late 1930s. He initially worked across a range of studios and independent production companies before finding a home at Universal under the supervision of producer Ross Hunter. Sirk brought to his work a strong sense of drama, form and mise en scène, creating films famous for their stylistic excesses, precisely detailed décor and loaded texts and subtexts.

Celebrated by the feminist and Marxist critics of the 1970s such as Laura Mulvey and the late great Thomas Elsaesser, and championed by queer directors like Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Pedro Almodóvar and Todd Haynes, his subversive command of the various forms of melodrama and other genres remains celebrated today. The seething worlds of Sirk’s creations are strangely fascinating, endlessly entertaining and provide extraordinary portraits of particular societies, character types and moments in time. This season explores the various facets and stages in Sirk’s screen career, from his early, compromised works in the Nazi-controlled German cinema of the mid-1930s to his occupation as sojourner filmmaker elsewhere in Europe, and from his exploration of a wide variety of genres and modes of production to the extraordinary group of films upon which his contemporary reputation rests (including All That Heaven Allows, A Time to Love and a Time to Die and Imitation of Life).


"Life's parade at your fingertips": Douglas Sirk

All I Desire (1953) – Wed 24 Aug, 7pm
Imitation of Life (1959) – Wed 24 Aug, 8.45pm
All That Heaven Allows (1955) – Wed 31 Aug, 7pm
A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958) – Wed 31 Aug, 8.40pm
Shockproof (1949) – Wed 7 Sept, 6.30pm
April, April! (1935) – Wed 7 Sept, 8pm
Boefje (1939) – Wed 7 Sept, 9.35pm

Person laying on sand, with their face reflected in a puddle

Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society, Melbourne Cinémathèque screens significant works of international cinema in the medium they were created, the way they would have originally screened.

Melbourne Cinémathèque is self-administered, volunteer-run, not-for-profit and membership-driven. 

Learn more | View the 2022 program | See membership options