Sleep, My Love (Douglas Sirk / U.S., 1948):

Doze off on a bed and wake up aboard a hurtling train with a gun in your purse, thatís the married state. From the initial layout of The Lady Vanishes it moves to a riff on Suspicion, the blissful lovebirds from Leisenís Midnight are now a sleepwalking socialite (Claudette Colbert) and a treacherous architect (Don Ameche) in the age of psychoanalysis. (Another speck of screwball comedy amid noir shadows: Colbertís gentle, tipsy pirouette at a traditional Chinese wedding.) Sending her to the edge of a balcony or leaving her alone with a hulking analyst in a dark living room ("Do you know why youíre frightened," he asks with a fireplace poker in hand), the wifeís terrors multiply. "A certain tension" is the official prognosis, a "daffy" mind is the policeís impression, the truth is a blueprint of infidelity and manipulation filmed by Douglas Sirk with tons of baleful wit. The bespectacled boogeyman (George Coulouris) is really a querulous photographer, his shabby studio is where the philandering husband heís in cahoots with keeps the smoky vamp (Hazel Brooks) on a literal pedestal. Sirkís symbols are svelte and acrid: a cup of drugged chocolate for the heroine (Rosemaryís Baby), a swiveling POV on the gothic staircase, neon arrows and champagne at a seedy roadhouse (Whoís Afraid of Virginia Woolf?). The jungle inside the mansion, the realities people construct in order to wreck each other, the bleary condition of domestic stability. "Your girl is a lot of girls. This is one of them." Robert Cummings as the pushy suitor clinches the Hitchcockian line of thought, the climax is a necessary rupture, la sonnambula wide awake at last. With Rita Johnson, Keye Luke, Queenie Smith, Ralph Morgan, and Raymond Burr. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

Back to Reviews
Back Home