If you’ve seen this film, I’d be curious to hear any thoughts that you have about it.
I have seen this film, by director Douglas Sirk, quite a few times. And phew, there’s a lot I can say about it. First here’s the plot summary from IMDB:
In 1947 at Coney Island, down-on-her-luck actress Lora Meredith and her young daughter Susie meet coloured Annie Johnson and her daughter Sarah Jane. Annie is desperate for a place to live and offers to work as Lora’s maid for food and lodging. Lora’s luck begins to change as a result of their meeting and their two stories unfold across the years. However, Annie’s problems start when Sarah Jane tries to pass as white.
(that is a piece of writing that I can only describe as whimsical – but let’s pass over it for now.
Everything you need to know about Imitation of Life is in the title. each of the main characters has to grapple with the fact that they are not living, but enacting the poses of living. Both of the daughters look to their mothers for the instruction in how to become human, and both are ultimately ignored, because the mothers are too busy enacting the myths of American whiteness and blackness for each other. Unable to understand adulthood, each daughter confuses acting out sexually with maturity. Sarah Jane is punished by her mother’s death for defying her role as a black woman, but at the same time, Annie’s mothering is oppressive and conservative, as much of an act as Lora’s icy high-mindedness. The shocking presence of Mahaliah Jackson’s singing near the end stands in marked contrast to the shallowness of emotional and spiritual feeling that the rest of the characters display. I feel very stongly both daughters’ anguish, and it’s hard not to root for Sarah Jane when she throws the Stepin Fetchit reality of her situation back in the faces of her supposed benefactors with her drawling “coloured”girl routine.
As in his other films, Sirk uses the limitations of Hollywood acting and filming to probe at the shallowness of American life as it imagines itself.
What did you think of it?
You all know the drill by now, since so many people are doing it: ask a question and i’ll try to answer.