Im­i­ta­tion of Life

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

DOUGLAS Sirk’s films have a cult fol­low­ing for their dra­matic plots, dis­cus­sion of the touchy is­sues of race and sex in the US in the 1940s and ’ 50s, and his use of women in strong lead roles, all cap­tured with pris­tine cin­e­matog­ra­phy. When Sirk was alive he was con­sid­ered some­thing of a sec­ond- tier di­rec­tor, but since the ’ 70s he has been ac­knowl­edged as one of Hol­ly­wood’s most in­flu­en­tial au­teurs. Im­i­ta­tion of Life was his last Hol­ly­wood film and epit­o­mises his work. It fol­lows the ad­ven­tures of two women and their chil­dren as they fol­low their dreams. The paths of a young white mother, Lora ( Lana Turner), a young black mother, An­nie ( Juanita Moore), and a hand­some young pho­tog­ra­pher, Steve ( John Gavin), cross one hot day at crowded Coney Is­land beach. ( Th­ese open­ing scenes show lon­gago New York at play.) Lora is an as­pir­ing ac­tor, al­most pen­ni­less but de­ter­mined to get her ca­reer go­ing, even if it means throw­ing over her true love. Sweet- na­tured An­nie be­comes Lora’s com­pan­ion- maid­cheer­leader. Their chil­dren are friends, too; as adults they are played by San­dra Dee ( who re­ally was as cute as a but­ton and ‘‘ lousy with vir­gin­ity’’) and sul­try Susan Kohner, a beau­ti­ful pale- skinned ‘‘ coloured’’ girl who strug­gles with her iden­tity: is she black or white? The four women ( and Steve) are bonded for­ever, through pain, poverty and suc­cess. Sirk’s ob­ser­va­tions about the hid­den world of black Amer­i­cans and sex­ual power play are more sub­tle than his plots in­di­cate. EX­TRAS: Two ex­tra discs of fea­turettes and other ver­sions

( three- disc set) ( PG) Mad­man ( 125 min­utes) $ 39.95

Ros­alie Hig­son

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