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Imitation of Life

Posted by martinteller on June 23, 2007

An incredibly layered film for what is, on the surface, a “weepie”.  Sirk’s handling of racial issues is bold and scathing, especially for 1959.  Lora (Lana Turner) is the center of the film, but Sirk doesn’t let her off the hook.  She’s never once blatantly called out as a racist (nor should she be) but her role in perpetuating ingrained racism is clear.  When she says to Annie (Juanita Moore, an absolute gem), “You have friends?”, it’s devastating.  However, the meat of the race relations angle revolves around Sarah Jane (a stellar performance by Susan Kohner).  I’d be really surprised if there were many other films of this time addressing race in such a complex manner.  Beyond the race issues, there’s a lot more going on, and we’re never quite sure what to make of Lora’s ambition, or Steve’s passive-aggressive whining.  The film is also astoundingly moving, as a melodrama should be, and beautifully photographed (keep an eye out for triangles surrounding Lora, Susie, and Steve).  Rating: 9 


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