All That Heaven Allows (1955)

All That Heaven Allows (1955), directed by Douglas Sirk.

This tragic romance of an older widow and younger -- very studly -- man is not as "weepy" as other Sirk projects, but is even more direct in its condemnation of social codes and hypocrisy.

Jane Wyman is only eight years older than Rock Hudson here, but we are supposed to imagine a larger gap. She has adult children and I suppose he is supposed to be about their age, although he's been to war, has his own business and seems more mature.

No one understands -- or will accept -- that a widow with grown children can still feel passion. Society and town gossips conspire to keep her from pursuing her own happiness. The kids are particularly vile: Mom's escaping! Can't allow that!

An especially interesting aspect is how mainstream, rigid, judgmental society is shamed in comparison to an alternative, artistic, lightly bohemian counterculture. Who wouldn't prefer the latter to the former? And when did this start in film? You get a touch of it with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn in Holiday (1938) and Capra has an eccentric screwball treatment in You Can't Take It With You (1938). Once we reach the beatnik and hippy era it's all over: Hollywood rushes to other side of the boat and the counterculture becomes mainstream.

Sirk's work was once belittled for being merely "women's" pictures, but which seems more radical in retrospect. We are used to movies being about men watching women, with plots made from the effect women have on men. Sirk is able to turn it around: this is about a woman looking at a man and her struggles with what that does to her.

Agnes Moorehead (look at that red hair!) gets a break from villain roles to be a good best friend. Daughter Gloria Talbott was last seen in I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958).

Russell Metty's Technicolor photography is an exciting, saturated assault on the eyes: that lovely New England autumn.

Criterion Blu-ray. The commentary track has good insight into how much the costuming tells the story, something I wouldn't have noticed otherwise.