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Magnificent Obsession

By MATTHEW KORFHAGE
[TWO DAYS ONLY, REVIVAL] Magnificent Obsession, the most brilliantly bonkers of all the “women’s weepies,” makes Love Story look like a staid documentary. Douglas Sirk’s 1954 film starts with Rock Hudson crashing a high-speed boat, then moves on to a heart attack, a streetside collapse, a car accident that leaves a widow blind, a botched suicide, a mistaken-identity love affair, some weird Episcopalian version of Scientology presided over by a father figure who in other films would be playing the devil, decades of devoted chastity, emergency brain surgeries and countless bodies wracked by heaving sobs. Sirk’s peculiar genius is to create a world in which all of this makes perfect sense. Like any good German director, he makes his entire filmic world conspire in portraying his characters’ torrential feelings; the screen is bathed in light or drowned in shadow, the soothing swell of strings is never far, and the entire production is filmed with the diabolical patience of a suspense thriller. Calamity is, after all, ever near. One doesn’t need to know Hudson’s sexual identity to understand that this flick was an exercise in tautly controlled, ironized camp even as it arrived in the 1950s: The amorous relationship between Hudson and co-star Jane Wyman is a near-demonic love of a son for his mother. In Obsession, Hollywood’s crazy-for-you romantic ideal becomes, finally, merely insane.
 

Special Note

NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium. 7 pm Friday and 2 pm Sunday, Jan. 18 and 20
 
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  • Release Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2013
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  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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