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jaragon

"Far From Heaven" (2002)

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Todd Haynes hommage to classic Hollywood melodrama is visually splendid masterpiece.  Julianne Moore ( who should have won an Oscar) discovers her perfect husband Dennis Quaid is hiding a secret and when she dares to befriend  Dennys Haybert her black garndner her perfect suburban world is turned upside down.  Haynes uses his inner Douglas Sirk to explore a situation that Ross Hunter's glossy Universal productions would never dare. Patricia Clarkson gives a great supporting performance as Moore's best friend.

 

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I hate to sound negative but I can't stand this film. Normally I am more open minded and appreciate an "homage." But I feel this effort is clunky in spots and relies too much on the novelty of trying to evoke an earlier era. It comes across as highly anachronistic and considerably amateurish compared to what Sirk did in his films.

After I watched FAR FROM HEAVEN, I decided a director should not try to imitate another director. He has to develop his own style which can be influenced by others but still has to be original enough to stand on its own. Also, when you make a film like this it seems like trying to cash in on earlier hits, but there was no market for this type of story in 2002. Ultimately it's an exercise in vanity which says "see I can make something like Sirk did."

And I really thought the gay subplot did not work. It would be like redoing an episode of Leave It to Beaver and trying to get every period aspect correct, then telling the audience Ward Cleaver was actually a bisexual. It's putting a 21st century lens (and gay bias) on the 50s. It's unrealistic "revisionist" history. It does not work for me.

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2 hours ago, TopBilled said:

I hate to sound negative but I can't stand this film. Normally I am more open minded and appreciate an "homage." But I feel this effort is clunky in spots and relies too much on the novelty of trying to evoke an earlier era. It comes across as highly anachronistic and considerably amateurish compared to what Sirk did in his films.

After I watched FAR FROM HEAVEN, I decided a director should not try to imitate another director. He has to develop his own style which can be influenced by others but still has to be original enough to stand on its own. Also, when you make a film like this it seems like trying to cash in on earlier hits, but there was no market for this type of story in 2002. Ultimately it's an exercise in vanity which says "see I can make something like Sirk did."

And I really thought the gay subplot did not work. It would be like redoing an episode of Leave It to Beaver and trying to get every period aspect correct, then telling the audience Ward Cleaver was actually a bisexual. It's putting a 21st century lens (and gay bias) on the 50s. It's unrealistic "revisionist" history. It does not work for me.

It's a beautifully-realized "homage" to Douglas Sirk.

What's wrong with a "homage"?

Of course, it is saying "more" than a film of this period could have said.

That is its' "novelty".

dennis-quaid__iphone_640.jpg

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1 hour ago, rayban said:

It's a beautifully-realized "homage" to Douglas Sirk.

What's wrong with a "homage"?

Of course, it is saying "more" than a film of this period could have said.

That is its' "novelty".

I think that's exactly what's wrong with it, Ray. It's "too gay" and going out of its way to say things Sirk couldn't or maybe wouldn't say. It feels too heavy handed, and ultimately too contrived.

One gets the feeling this same director, if he was remaking CASABLANCA, would have Humphrey Bogart's character lusting after Paul Henreid's character and sleeping with him behind Ingrid Bergman's back. Just because he could. 

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56 minutes ago, rayban said:

Would you agree that Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid gave fine performances?

No. She did, yes. But he did not. It wasn't because he was miscast (which he certainly was) but it's because he played the sex scenes with a sense of detachment, like look at me I am a gutsy actor playing a gay man but of course I am not really like this in real life. And I think the director focused too much on making Moore look good, so Quaid was neglected in terms of direction.

I just can't stand this director. He focuses on the weird and the sleazy and he never illuminates the human condition with his stories. In FAR FROM HEAVEN, I never feel he gives us any real insights about what it means to be gay. The whole thing is a slick exercise in vanity and weirdness. Terrible director. I'm so turned off by him I can't even bring myself to mention him by name in these posts.

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I would agree that Julianne Moore is better directed than Dennis Quaid.

The director focuses on her character's 50's sensibility.

Which is, of course, being brought to a rude awakening.

But, don't forget, Jane Wyman had rude awakenings in "Magnificent Obsession" and "All That Heaven Allows".

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37 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Terrible director. I'm so turned off by him I can't even bring myself to mention him by name in these posts.

I'm guessing you didn't tune in when he was a guest programmer last year! :lol:

Neither did I. But while I'm not very fond of him, I don't loathe him with the same passion you do. I just haven't been thrilled with any of his movies. There were aspects of Velvet GoldmineI'm Not There, and Carol that I liked, but they all could have been better. I didn't care much at all for Safe or Far from Heaven (no offense to the OP).

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22 minutes ago, rayban said:

I would agree that Julianne Moore is better directed than Dennis Quaid.

The director focuses on her character's 50's sensibility.

Which is, of course, being brought to a rude awakening.

But, don't forget, Jane Wyman had rude awakenings in "Magnificent Obsession" and "All That Heaven Allows".

I just went over his filmography. I see he directed Moore three times. This was the second collaboration. A number of his films have lost money, a lot of money. His most recent ones were flops. He's probably better suited to television (he directed the TV remake of MILDRED PIERCE). 

When I looked at his films on wiki, I checked the tags on the bottom of each page. Almost all his works have the LGBT tag. But yet, I don't think he's raised any awareness about LGBT issues. He exploits these issues but offers no new insights. I feel a director's sexuality (heterosexuality or homosexuality) should inform the art, not get in the way of it. He fails on almost every level for me.

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4 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

I'm guessing you didn't tune in when he was a guest programmer last year! :lol:

Neither did I. But while I'm not very fond of him, I don't loathe him with the same passion you do. I just haven't been thrilled with any of his movies. There were aspects of Velvet GoldmineI'm Not There, and Carol that I liked, but they all could have been better. I didn't care much at all for Safe or Far from Heaven (no offense to the OP).

Thanks. You probably said it better than I did. He's one of those who became popular with critics for a short period of time but whether he merited such acclaim is debatable.

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I really like this movie- I just love the way he captured the look of the films of that period.  The film is a showcase for Moore who Haynes obviously loves.   She is also in his far more disturbing "Safe" I liked this movie better than "Carol" which also looks great but the story left me cold. 

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I really liked FAR FROM HEAVEN and CAROL.  They're not perfect but they've got some great performances (especially by the women) and I like the way they evoke the 1950's.  These were repressive times for a lot of folks.  Is the director who-shan't-be-named paying homage to Sirk?  Maybe in the same way that DePalma paid homage to Hitchcock?  Just a thought.

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9 hours ago, ChristineHoard said:

I really liked FAR FROM HEAVEN and CAROL.  They're not perfect but they've got some great performances (especially by the women) and I like the way they evoke the 1950's.  These were repressive times for a lot of folks.  Is the director who-shan't-be-named paying homage to Sirk?  Maybe in the same way that DePalma paid homage to Hitchcock?  Just a thought.

Count me as a fan too. I don't understand the criticism that the film is "too gay" and that Haynes has gone out of his way to say things Sirk couldn't or wouldn't have. Who knows what Sirk would have done if he had any kind of realistic choice. To me Haynes' whole point was to revisit Sirk's world (in a respectful way) and to expand that world by giving homosexuality a much closer look than any filmmaker of that era could have dreamt of doing. In a way many of Haynes' films are like the best fan fiction, refreshing a given entity or genre by exploring new possibilities within it. 

I also approve of how Dennis Quaid handled the role. I was very young in the 1950's and didn't reach maturity until the 60's, but gay life and gay experience hadn't evolved all that much by then. (A rapid evolution would come soon after.) A character like his in that situation would have absolutely been coiled, inexpressive, defensive and just plain scared, all of which I think came across well. The police station scene was enough to give knots in the stomach to anyone who can remember the "round-'em-up" mentality of police toward gay people in those days. Haynes' evocation of that very real and very inexcusable part of our social history is in no way "too gay".

Sirk was all about developing an attractive, seemingly stable environment and then exploring beneath the surface and I think Haynes did an admirable (and, as I said, respectful) job of exploring even further beneath that surface. I also like some of Haynes' character choices, such as having the Patricia Clarkson character turn on her much more decisively that the Agnes Moorehead character did in the original; it fits the either/or, absolutist mentality of the "happiest decade", that popular revisionist description of the 1950's. I was initially on the fence about Quaid's choice of a much younger person as his partner at he end, but I now think it fits with the character's overall desperation that he would try to recapture what youth he had missed as a gay man by seeing it vicariously through the younger man. I also like Haynes' choice to make the pivotal "Rock Hudson" character black, opening up another whole new front on which to explore social hypocrisy, the exploration of which Sirk was a master and Haynes a very worthy student.

So, yes, I think Todd Haynes has raised awareness of LGBT issues.

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https://youtu.be/WEQOeQBpxvw I don't think the film is "too gay" and Dennis Quaid is very good as the closeted husband- but this in every way a woman's picture.  Hayne's idea was to keep within the boundaries of film that might have been produced in 1950's .  He actually toned down the kissing scene between the men during the office scene. I've never been too crazy about the Matt Damon look alike twink Quaid ends up with- actually I was more interested in the guy he was kissing at the office.  Love to see a movie made from his point of view

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2 hours ago, jaragon said:

https://youtu.be/WEQOeQBpxvw I don't think the film is "too gay" and Dennis Quaid is very good as the closeted husband- but this in every way a woman's picture.  Hayne's idea was to keep within the boundaries of film that might have been produced in 1950's .  He actually toned down the kissing scene between the men during the office scene.

I think it is too gay. What I really can't get past is that his agenda seems to be to pull conservative minded people from the 50s out of the closet. That's not entertainment. And it's not even illuminating. Except as an indicator of what's on HIS mind.

To me, a better homage is Gus Van Sant's shot for shot remake of PSYCHO. I know critics asked 'why' and 'what's the point of redoing a Hitchcock film' but I think it was Van Sant's tribute to the original source material without trying to put a modern spin on it, the way what's his name is doing with FAR FROM HEAVEN.

Could Van Sant have implied Norman was a gay mama's boy who killed women out of frustration with his own bottled up desires? Yes, but he didn't do that. In fact he makes Norman seem even more hetero than Hitchcock did by adding the one shot where Norman (Vince Vaughn) is pleasuring himself looking through a peep hole at Marion (Anne Heche). So in that case the key deviation is not Van Sant putting his views about homosexuality first. In fact, he's doing just the opposite.

The other director seems to be fixated on saying everyone's gay. It doesn't ring true to me.

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58 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

I think it is too gay. What I really can't get past is that his agenda seems to be to pull conservative minded people from the 50s out of the closet. That's not entertainment. And it's not even illuminating. Except as an indicator of what's on HIS mind.

To me, a better homage is Gus Van Sant's shot for shot remake of PSYCHO. I know critics asked 'why' and 'what's the point of redoing a Hitchcock film' but I think it was Van Sant's tribute to the original source material without trying to put a modern spin on it, the way what's his name is doing with FAR FROM HEAVEN.

Could Van Sant have implied Norman was a gay mama's boy who killed women out of frustration with his own bottled up desires? Yes, but he didn't do that. In fact he makes Norman seem even more hetero than Hitchcock did by adding the one shot where Norman (Vince Vaughn) is pleasuring himself looking through a peep hole at Marion (Anne Heche). So in that case the key deviation is not Van Sant putting his views about homosexuality first. In fact, he's doing just the opposite.

The other director seems to be fixated on saying everyone's gay. It doesn't ring true to me.

I did not get the point of Van Sant's remake of "Psycho" apart from a couple of weird Lynch inspired shots the movie was dull even if you are not familiar with Hitchcock's classic.  I see nothing wrong with remaking "Psycho" but at least go back to the book which is a bit different from the movie .  If you are going to turn Norman into a gay psycho his victims would have to be male.

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

I think it is too gay. What I really can't get past is that his agenda seems to be to pull conservative minded people from the 50s out of the closet. That's not entertainment. And it's not even illuminating. Except as an indicator of what's on HIS mind.

To me, a better homage is Gus Van Sant's shot for shot remake of PSYCHO. I know critics asked 'why' and 'what's the point of redoing a Hitchcock film' but I think it was Van Sant's tribute to the original source material without trying to put a modern spin on it, the way what's his name is doing with FAR FROM HEAVEN.

Could Van Sant have implied Norman was a gay mama's boy who killed women out of frustration with his own bottled up desires? Yes, but he didn't do that. In fact he makes Norman seem even more hetero than Hitchcock did by adding the one shot where Norman (Vince Vaughn) is pleasuring himself looking through a peep hole at Marion (Anne Heche). So in that case the key deviation is not Van Sant putting his views about homosexuality first. In fact, he's doing just the opposite.

The other director seems to be fixated on saying everyone's gay. It doesn't ring true to me.

I don't agree about an agenda to pull conservative minded people out of the closet. His film is about the kind of closed-ranks, exclusionary thinking which has historically made the closet such a sad but compelling choice. I say it is illuminating to look at how context affects the individual.

As for Psycho, how is having Vince Vaughn ****ing off not putting a modern spin on it?

Nowhere in Far From Heaven do I get the message that everyone's gay and my experience has been that the charge is usually made out of a distaste for and an insecurity about the subject. Since I know you to be a major presence on this forum I don't think that could be said about you, but I encourage you to revisit that idea as a reason to knock the film and the director. Otherwise, I'm happy to agree to disagree.

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36 minutes ago, DougieB said:

I don't agree about an agenda to pull conservative minded people out of the closet. His film is about the kind of closed-ranks, exclusionary thinking which has historically made the closet such a sad but compelling choice. I say it is illuminating to look at how context affects the individual.

As for Psycho, how is having Vince Vaughn ****ing off not putting a modern spin on it?

Nowhere in Far From Heaven do I get the message that everyone's gay and my experience has been that the charge is usually made out of a distaste for and an insecurity about the subject. Since I know you to be a major presence on this forum I don't think that could be said about you, but I encourage you to revisit that as a reason to knock the film and the director. Otherwise, I'm happy to agree to disagree.

It's not illuminating the way he does it with this story. It could have been illuminating. 

Your comment about PSYCHO seems off to me. A scene about self-pleasuring is not necessarily modern anything. It just shows the murder was or*gas**mic.

You may not get the message that FAR FROM HEAVEN is saying everyone's gay but I do. I don't see your referencing my presence in other discussions as germaine to this, unless you are trying to imply I'm homophobic in other discussions when there is no evidence of that. I still think the director's approach to material is too gay and might explain why he's not commercially more successful.

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34 minutes ago, jaragon said:

I did not get the point of Van Sant's remake of "Psycho" apart from a couple of weird Lynch inspired shots the movie was dull even if you are not familiar with Hitchcock's classic.  I see nothing wrong with remaking "Psycho" but at least go back to the book which is a bit different from the movie .  If you are going to turn Norman into a gay psycho his victims would have to be male.

Interesting comment. Norman seems most related to real-life killer Ed Gein. Gein confessed to killing two women but there were possibly more. Since Norman is technically a "fictional character," a director could remake Bloch's story and turn the character into a bisexual or homosexual killer. I'm glad Van Sant did not do that. It would have become about him being gay instead of about him just being a killer dealing with his mother's domination.

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I can see where others may be swept away by the cinematography of the film and the tip of the hat to Sirk, but it's just so transparently pro-gay and so cloying in its attempt to replicate serious art that I find the whole exercise tedious. Something to dismiss. I can't take FAR FROM HEAVEN seriously on any level.

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN also seems pro-gay on some level but it's still serious art. It's not cloying or self-conscious. So it's not that something is pro-gay per se, it's how in its falseness it attempts to push a gay agenda on to the screen that I have the problem with. And all of Haynes' work is like this to me. That's why I despise his pictures.

I am taking a risk with these posts. Normally I do not push such a strong point of view but I've had 15 years to dislike FAR FROM HEAVEN and my feelings about it seem to get stronger with time. It would certainly be easier if I could just say I love it and that I love his work but that would be a huge lie.

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Topbilled, you know I'm with you in regards to Far from Heaven not being among our favorites, although I liked it more than you did. I was still disappointed with it overall, but it was more for lack of a stronger narrative or more compelling characters for me than recoiling from any kind of perceived agenda. The director was using Sirk-style filmmaking to illustrate socially "objectionable" behavior or social groups underneath the "perfect" 50's veneer, and this filmmaker was certainly not the first or the last to try to do so. But I can't see as to where he was trying to say "everyone's gay". He, and his producing partner Christine Vachon, are both homosexual filmmakers, and that social group is what often interests them the most. Neither are trying for highly commercial, box-office homerun movies, or else they'd be making superhero movies and/or cartoons. I think their films are more character-driven and situational than trying to make sweeping generalizations. 

This is a bit of a tangent, but it's related to the subject at hand. Some people see a character in a movie and think that any traits that character exhibits are meant as broad judgments on all people of that character type, be it gay, religious, black, Hispanic, white, male, female, immigrant, etc. So if a black character is shown committing a crime, some viewers take that as the filmmakers saying that all blacks commit crime. Which I find absurd, as 99.9% of the time, these qualities are only meant to describe that particular character. I've read that there's an unwritten rule in current Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking that movie villains need to be straight white males, because any other group will find their social group being portrayed as a villain as offensive and it will generate social media campaigns and boycotts. So villains can't be non-white unless the hero is also non-white, or gay unless the hero is gay (how often does that happen?), etc. To me, this is insane, and detrimental to the creative process. And I think some viewers go into movies searching for agendas or implications that aren't intended by the filmmakers.

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15 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

It's not illuminating the way he does it with this story. It could have been illuminating. 

Your comment about PSYCHO seems off to me. A scene about self-pleasuring is not necessarily modern anything. It just shows the murder was or*gas**mic.

You may not get the message that FAR FROM HEAVEN is saying everyone's gay but I do. I don't see your referencing my presence in other discussions as germaine to this, unless you are trying to imply I'm homophobic in other discussions when there is no evidence of that. I still think the director's approach to material is too gay and might explain why he's not commercially more successful.

Illumination comes with a fresh perspective and I say Haynes' perspective on that particular aspect of American history was fresh and incisive. You say not.

You brought Psycho into the discussion by saying it was a "better" homage which didn't put a "modern" spin on the source material the way Far From Heaven did. I said I thought "self-pleasuring" (your term) did constitute a modern spin. Hitchcock couldn't have even if he'd wanted to, so its inclusion can be seen as a "modern" and discretionary choice. 

You're making a very broad and unnecessary leap to homophobia and then bolstering the idea that the claim has been made by saying that there's no evidence for it. The last thing we need to have on the LGBT forum is a melee of that sort, so let's both cool it, OK?

As a final thought, would you recommend that any director guilty of "too-gayness" tamp it down in order to be more commercially successful? Self-censorship based on public opinion and commercial potential is not the way to go, in my opinion. 

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6 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

Topbilled, you know I'm with you in regards to Far from Heaven not being among our favorites, although I liked it more than you did. I was still disappointed with it overall, but it was more for lack of a stronger narrative or more compelling characters for me than recoiling from any kind of perceived agenda. The director was using Sirk-style filmmaking to illustrate socially "objectionable" behavior or social groups underneath the "perfect" 50's veneer, and this filmmaker was certainly not the first or the last to try to do so. But I can't see as to where he was trying to say "everyone's gay". He, and his producing partner Christine Vachon, are both homosexual filmmakers, and that social group is what often interests them the most. Neither are trying for highly commercial, box-office homerun movies, or else they'd be making superhero movies and/or cartoons. I think their films are more character-driven and situational than trying to make sweeping generalizations. 

This is a bit of a tangent, but it's related to the subject at hand. Some people see a character in a movie and think that any traits that character exhibits are meant as broad judgments on all people of that character type, be it gay, religious, black, Hispanic, white, male, female, immigrant, etc. So if a black character is shown committing a crime, some viewers take that as the filmmakers saying that all blacks commit crime. Which I find absurd, as 99.9% of the time, these qualities are only meant to describe that particular character. I've read that there's an unwritten rule in current Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking that movie villains need to be straight white males, because any other group will find their social group being portrayed as a villain as offensive and it will generate social media campaigns and boycotts. So villains can't be non-white unless the hero is also non-white, or gay unless the hero is gay (how often does that happen?), etc. To me, this is insane, and detrimental to the creative process. And I think some viewers go into movies searching for agendas or implications that aren't intended by the filmmakers.

Interesting comment. I agree with your second paragraph whole heartedly.

As for Haynes' agenda, to me he could easily have told the same story, about a wife's alienation from her husband (or maybe it's his alienation from her) in the perfect world of the 50s by making it a male menopause story. Or a story about a man who's alcoholic or going through depression related to a failing business and experiencing impotency. He did not have to be gay for this story to work. The fact Haynes makes him gay says it all, that this whole story was an excuse to platform his belief that in the 50s men were lusting after other men and anxious to get it on the minute their wives weren't around. So the selling point becomes Quaid's character being gay instead of Quaid's character having a crisis of faith or a crisis of identity in the marriage. Moore still could have had the same feelings of inadequacy if her husband was shutting down because of other issues instead of sexual orientation.

I will offer what I call a sugar analogy. If I favored sugar, I would try to put sugar into all my movies. I could tell the media I am remaking Hamlet, but the minute I have Hamlet ask for sugar before he kills Polonius or if he's craving sugar when visited by the ghost of his father, then that's an obvious case of me just using "art" (Shakespeare's text) to push my own agenda about sugar. If I do this in all my movies, across genres, then critics and viewers can see I am more about pushing sugar than telling a legitimate human interest story. In short my biases are quite evident because I can't keep sugar out of my movies. It almost makes me the filmmaker something to parody. There's that sugar director. When my next movie comes out, how many minutes into the two hour movie before I have someone drool over sugar.

In this same way Haynes' preoccupation with gay themes becomes didactic and on some level a joke. Van Sant and other openly gay directors do not need to bring gay themes into all their works. They are more interested in the reality of a story, instead of using it to push an agenda. 

I almost spilled my coffee. I forgot to put sugar in it.

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38 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

I can see where others may be swept away by the cinematography of the film and the tip of the hat to Sirk, but it's just so transparently pro-gay and so cloying in its attempt to replicate serious art that I find the whole exercise tedious. Something to dismiss. I can't take FAR FROM HEAVEN seriously on any level.

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN also seems pro-gay on some level but it's still serious art. It's not cloying or self-conscious. So it's not that something is pro-gay per se, it's how in its falseness it attempts to push a gay agenda on to the screen that I have the problem with. And all of Haynes' work is like this to me. That's why I despise his pictures.

I am taking a risk with these posts. Normally I do not push such a strong point of view but I've had 15 years to dislike FAR FROM HEAVEN and my feelings about it seem to get stronger with time. It would certainly be easier if I could just say I love it and that I love his work but that would be a huge lie.

I get it. I'm going a little farther afield that I usually do too. Passion for movies, right? Please don't ever say you like something you don't. My response was probably based on an instinctive gut reaction whenever I hear the words "too gay". There's an awful lot of unpleasant history behind those words, so I may have filled in some blanks in ways you didn't intend,

 

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13 minutes ago, DougieB said:

Illumination comes with a fresh perspective and I say Haynes' perspective on that particular aspect of American history was fresh and incisive. You say not.

You brought Psycho into the discussion by saying it was a "better" homage which didn't put a "modern" spin on the source material the way Far From Heaven did. I said I thought "self-pleasuring" (your term) did constitute a modern spin. Hitchcock couldn't have even if he'd wanted to, so its inclusion can be seen as a "modern" and discretionary choice. 

You're making a very broad and unnecessary leap to homophobia and then bolstering the idea that the claim has been made by saying that there's no evidence for it. The last thing we need to have on the LGBT forum is a melee of that sort, so let's both cool it, OK?

As a final thought, would you recommend that any director guilty of "too-gayness" tamp it down in order to be more commercially successful? Self-censorship based on public opinion and commercial potential is not the way to go, in my opinion. 

It seems you have been quick to shoot down all my comments to protect the director's reputation instead of having this be more of a difference of opinion. In your last paragraph above you seem to imply that I am advocating censorship. That it would be wrong for me or politically incorrect for me to say directors guilty of "too-gayness" (your phrase not mine) tone it down to be more commercially successful. What's wrong with toning something down to make it sell more broadly to audiences? So yeah, I am going to defy political correctness in this instance and maintain my view that the director is not commercially more successful because of his agenda (sexual politics) and that limits the profitability of his pictures.

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