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UCL Mellon Programme: Interdisciplinary Seminar 2008-2009

Seminar: 14 November 2008 (Chair: Cüneyt Çakirlar, more ... )

A screening and discussion of Far From Heaven (dir. Todd Haynes, 2002) 107 mins


Haynes’s Far From Heaven is a pastiche, a meticulously intertexualized mimicry of 1950s melodrama, in which Sirk’s films stands as the main inspiration. The film’s story develops around two axes of transgression, namely interracial love and homosexuality, which often remain closeted in melodramas but operate as modes of founding repudiations or ‘constitutive outsides’. The film narrates the oppressed lives of Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) and her husband Frank (Dennis Quaid) in an American suburbia of 1950s, Hartford, where the upper-middle-class protagonists, as the perfect couple of the town, seem to be the central attraction of both the local media and high society. Whereas the viewer witnesses Frank’s depression – a man with a successful career: the sales executive of television manufacturing company Magnatech Inc. – with an accelerating aggression toward his irrepressible homosexuality, Cathy Whitaker appears to be the perfect mother and housewife whose sexual/emotional dissatisfaction with her husband leads her to fall in love with her black gardener Raymond Deagan. Cathy’s accidental encounter with her husband’s homosexuality, the cruel gossip about her friendship with Raymond and thus Frank’s doubled tension with regard to his masculinity are the main elements through which Haynes constructs his melodramatic atmosphere and his re-temporalized melodramatic pathos in the film. In Far From Heaven, there are complex, diverse and hybrid levels of citation and allusion at work. The film contains references and gestures – in terms of both cinematic form, narrative and story – to Sirk’s films All That Heaven Allows (1955), Written on the Wind (1956), Imitation of Life (1959), Fassbinder’s Angst Essen Seele Auf (1973, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul), Ophuls’ Reckless Moment (1949) and Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948). (Cüneyt Çakirlar)

Suggested Readings:

Gorfinkel, Elena. ‘The Future of an Anachronism: Todd Haynes and the Magnificent Andersons’, Cinephilia: Movies, Love and Memory, edited by Marijke de Valck and Malte Hagener ( Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2005), pp. 153-67.

Hawkins, Joan. ‘The Sleazy Pedigree of Todd Haynes’, Sleaze Artists: Cinema at the Margins of Taste, Style and Politics, edited by Jeff Sconce ( London: Duke University Press, 2007), pp. 189-218.

Luciano, Dana. ‘Coming Around Again: The Queer Momentum of Far From Heaven’, GLQ 13: 2-3, 2007, pp. 249-72.

Willis, Sharon. ‘The Politics of Disappointment: Todd Haynes Rewrites Douglas Sirk’, Camera Obscura 54, 18:3, 2003, pp. 131-74.

This page last modified 26 September, 2012 by UCL Mellon Admin

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