imitation of life


“’How do you explain to your child, she was born to be hurt?’ This line from Imitation of Life evokes the United States in its last desperate years of institutionalized racism. It seems more than coincidence that Douglas Sirk filmed his masterpiece in late summer of 1958, less than three years after Rosa Parks sat down in that bus in Montgomery and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led the boycott. Only a few years earlier, neither Hollywood nor the American public would have accepted this picture. (Even the 1934 Imitation of Life, conservative, safe, and devoid of subtext, encountered roadblocks…) In the spirit of those times, what might Juanita Moore’s lines to Lana Turner– ‘How do you explain to your child, she was born to be hurt?’ –have meant to audiences north and south when the film opened in 1959? What does it mean today? And how might we, in the 'progressive’ twenty-first century, explain to those audiences at the the tail end of a similar era, that so much has changed, and so little?”
–Sam Staggs, Born to Be Hurt: The Untold Story of Imitation of Life


The Douglas Sirk Color Melodrama
Sirk’s melodramas of the 1950s, while highly commercially successful, were generally very poorly received by reviewers. His films were considered unimportant because they revolve around female emotions and domestic issues, seen as banal at the time because of their focus on larger-than-life feelings, and unrealistic because of their conspicuous style. Attitudes toward Sirk’s films changed drastically in the 1960s and 1970s as his work was re-examined by French, American, and British critics. From around 1970 there was a considerable interest among academic film scholars for Sirk’s work - especially his American melodramas. Often centering on the formerly criticized style, his films were now seen as masterpieces of irony. The plots of the films were no longer taken at face value, and the analyses instead found that the films really criticized American society underneath the banal surface plot. The criticism of the 1970s and early 1980s was dominated by an ideological take on Sirk’s work, gradually changing from being Marxist-inspired in the early 1970s to being focused on gender and sexuality in the late 1970s and early 1980s.


Imitation of Life (2013), Mathias Poledna

Two and a half minute long animated short on 35mm film. 2D hand drawn animation with water colour backgrounds in the style of a Disney short from the 1940s. The score features a re-arrangement of I’ve Gotta Feelin’ You’re Foolin’, a popular song from the 1930s written by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown.

This short is absolutely gorgeous and I hope to see it one day in a proper art space, the way it’s meant to be viewed.