The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Tuesday, December 17, 2002
I USE THE PHRASE "FORBIDDEN LOVE": Todd Haynes' Far from Heaven has two interwoven plots, one involving a husband's forbidden love and the other involving his wife's. If you've read anything about the movie, you know already that the first love is homosexual and the second is interracial.

I've got a question about that.

The film was made in an almost perfect imitation of a Douglas Sirk-style social-commentary soap opera of the 1950s, faithfully recreating elements both wonderful (beautiful Technicolor photography) and grating (exposition-heavy dialogue). In the homosexual subplot, Haynes deliberately pushes the genre's boundaries: I doubt the movies he's imitating would bring their viewers into a gay bar, let alone allow us to see a male-on-male kiss or hear the word "fucking." In the interracial subplot, though, the genre's conventions remain unshattered: not only is there no interracial kiss, but there's no credible black character, just a stiff Noble Negro caricature that would have embarassed even Sidney Poitier: an intelligent black man who inexplicably loves a white woman who's incredibly patronizing to him.

Now, I think Haynes is one of the best filmmakers working today. (Certainly much better than Sirk, who's never impressed me much -- the only Sirk picture I've seen that I like at all is All That Heaven Allows, which was pretty much the direct inspiration for Haynes' movie.) So I'm willing to believe that the writer-director had a compelling artistic reason to let one subplot play with the genre's boundaries while the other leaves them intact.

But I can't imagine what that reason might be. If you can, please
let me know.


posted by Jesse 8:10 PM
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