"There's a very short distance between high art and trash," ran Douglas Sirk's famous formulation, "and trash that contains craziness is by this very quality nearer to art." Sirk's feverish 1954 melodrama practically defines the outer limits of that short distance as well as its finite edge, but it can't be faulted for lack of craziness. Rock Hudson, in the role that served as his ticket out of the backlot Western, plays the callous gadabout whose speedboat wreck indirectly causes the death of a small town's saintly sawbones. Guilty and humbled--and smitten with the dead man's widow (Jane Wyman)--he attempts to carry on the late doc's pay-it-forward altruism, only to cause another life-destroying catastrophe. Sirk undercuts the sudsy spirituality with a palette of chilly pastels, performances that seem to have had every inkling of humdrum humanity clubbed out of them, and a hysteric pitch that splits the difference between devotion and derangement. Criterion's 2-disc set includes John Stahl's 1935 filming of the Lloyd C. Douglas source novel. Also arriving this week: last year's underseen, underrated children's fantasy City of Ember; the splatter musical Repo! The Genetic Opera; Calexico: Live from Austin; and the long-awaited release of the 1979 kegger fave King Frat, featuring both an immortal theme song ("King Frat! King Fraaaat!") and the cinema's most protracted farting contest.
Mondays-Sundays. Starts: Jan. 20. Continues through Jan. 26, 2009