Saturday, October 27, 2012
Interlude (later re-released as Forbidden Interlude), released in 1957, is one of the lesser known Douglas Sirk movies of the 1950s. Like most of his great films of that era it was produced by Ross Hunter for Universal.
Helen Banning (June Allyson) is an American who has just arrived in Munich to work in the US consulate there. She meets the great conductor Tonio Fischer (Rossano Brazzi), and they fall in love.
Tonio however has a tragic secret, a secret that has the potential to doom their love affair.
Tonio has a rival for Helen’s affections, a rather dull American doctor named Morley Dwyer (Keith Andes).
Helen has never experienced a great love before and she is quite swept off her feet by the sophisticated European conductor.
A romantic idyll follows but Tonio is clearly troubled by something and the revelation when it does come leaves Helen shell-shocked to say the least, and facing a situation for which she is quite unprepared. What seemed like a simple holiday romance is anything but simple.
I’ve never liked June Allyson but I must admit she’s quite good in this film. Rossano Brazzi doesn’t overdo the Latin over thing. Both leads give surprisingly effective and sensitive performances. Keith Andes as Dr Dwyer is dull, but his character is supposed to be dull in contrast to Tonio’s European sophistication and charm.
With Ross Hunter producing, Douglas Sirk directing and William H. Daniels doing the cinematography, and given that the movie was shot in Cinemascope and Technicolor you’d expect Interlude to have a lush romantic look, and that’s exactly what it has.
For hardcore Sirk fans this movie may seem to lack the irony that they love so much in movies like Written on the Wind. It’s true that Interlude is a different sort of film, a more or less straightforward romantic melodrama, but Sirk took melodrama more seriously than is often assumed. Like all his melodramas Interlude has a powerful intensity. No matter what you think about his characters their pain is real and he wants you to feel that pain.
Finding that the movie was based on a James M. Cain story may come as a surprise but Cain was obsessed by music and the musical background to the story reflects that love.
The Region 4 DVD from Madman’s Director’s Suite series includes an interview with Kathryn Bigelow in which she talks way too much about her own films and spouts some silly film school psychoanalytical nonsense. It had the effect of telling me very little about Sirk and making me want to avoid Bigelow’s movies.
Interlude might not be a major Sirk movie but it’s a supremely romantic and tragic love story. Most Sirk fans seem to regard this as not merely a minor effort but even as a failure but as long as you’re not expecting something of the quality of Sirk’s great films then it’s worth a look.