Friday, February 28, 2003


I was a party to Far From Heaven today. This film must have been named by the same ironic little devils that came up with "The Hours." That title held a dark foreshadowing of how long the movie would seem to theatergoers. This title sets up, in a menacingly madcap way, lots of jokes about where audience members will feel during this movie. Far, far from heaven...

The cinematography here is beautiful. The whole look of the film is stunning -- which is the whole point of the project, I think. It really hearkens back to the Cinema of Attractions in the first decade of film history, in which directors shot things just to do it, not for any narrative purpose. Far From Heaven is a cinema of attractions experiment, to give form to a nostalgic technicolor 1950's that really never existed, but which needs to for the idea of the film -- that the 1950's were really much more hellish than today -- to work.

I've given the narrative thread in Far From Heaven serious thought...

I found the film's studied avoidance of the question of the Cold War to be bizarre and weirdly disorienting. Where are the children whose heads were bruised while pressing them against the bottoms of their desks during air raid drills?!

I can only imagine how much horror this film must incite in Japanese-Americans whose ancestors were interred in POW camps after Pearl Harbor, and who find no sympathy here. Thrown in their faces over and over, is a stalk of little Oriental flowers that scream off the screen, "We know you are out there, you descendants of interred Japanese-Americans, and this is our finger sticking in your eye!"

In Far From Heaven's halting symphonic score, I heard derisive laugter for the woeful confusion of the Hollywood writers who were being blacklisted at the time of this film. Their plight is not only glossed over in Far From Heaven, it is shockingly suppressed. The film's repeated use of two-dimensional images of outmoded TV sets, forgotten on office walls, struck me as an insensitive tokenism to the real agony of their sacrifices to preserve the First Amendment.

I am hard-pressed to even get into all the issues surrounding Hindenburg survivors who were, still in the 1950's, stumbling around in pain and loss. Someone has to speak for them. Not this film, however. The characters in Far From Heaven keep lighting up cigarettes and then tossing the still-burning matches callously in front of the camera. Every match is a slur; an inexcusable manipulation of the filmmaker to exploit that transatlantic tragedy. O the humanity!

More than anything, however, while screening Far From Heaven, my thoughts kept returning to the real travesty eclipsed by the myriad images of Julianne Moore standing around looking distraught. A mere 3200 miles from where she bites her lip in re-imagined Hartford CT, water rights were being bloodily contested in the foothills of California's Sierra Madre mountains. Where is that story? The shame! The shame!

Far From Heaven is far from good-storytelling. It is more of a pathetic whine about how bad things used to be when everybody was racist and hypocritical, and when homosexuality used to be considered deviant and so homosexuals used to have to cower in smokey, back alley speakeasys...alongside all those exhausted back alley abortionists, no doubt. Far from Heaven's screenplay was far from ready. The project proves, once again, that sensation is no substitute for story. My advice to theater-goers who are already over-dosed on gay themes and American dream hell, is to stay far from theaters where it is playing.

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