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All That Heaven Allows (free)

  • Vilas Hall 821 University Avenue Madison, WI, 53706 United States (map)

A melodrama from 1955 still stands up as one of the great romance films. Info

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Douglas Sirk directs a nail-biting romance between a Henry David Thoreau-channeling tree farmer, Ron (Rock Hudson) and a prosperous suburban widow, Cary (Jane Wyman). While Cary goes about town attending cocktail parties, being dragged around as the date of older men, and fighting off drunken advances, she only has eyes for her stunningly handsome young gardener. When Ron tells her he's giving up the maintenance business to grow trees, he invites her along to his cottage. While Ron charms Cary with the country life, complete with a conveniently placed copy of Thoreau's Walden, the two fall in love. Of course, everyone else back in civilization is appalled, and Cary finds she must choose between the man who makes her happy and her own children, who claim they are unable to stand up to the scandalized harassment they face because of her new romance.

Sirk's use of color and set design to juxtapose the town and country is stunning, and for 1955, its message is relatively progressive. While Cary finds she must be true to herself, against the demands made of single women in affluent society, it is still to a man that she must bend her life. That said, Rock Hudson is always a catch, and you'd have to be cold-hearted to not be yelling at the screen for them to get together in the end. All That Heaven Allows was a major influence on Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who is the focus of a Cinematheque series. Fassbinder's film Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, which plays the following afternoon, make subtle references to Sirk's film, mimicking the symbolic use of a television set, while Fassbinder turns the lovers’ tension up a few notches. —Reid Kurkerewicz

Earlier Event: September 15
Tone Madison Open House (free)
Later Event: September 16
Tone Madison Willy Street Fair Stage