“‘When Douglas Sirk retired from American filmmaking and returned to Europe at the end of the 1950s, his reputation was that of a director who simply churned out glossy Hollywood weepies. But after a major critical reappraisal, spurred by the critics of Cahiers du Cinema, the German-born filmmaker was reclaimed as an auteur with a varied body of work, an eye for visual stylization, and a sophisticated understanding of Brechtian artifice, not to mention one of cinema’s greatest ironists.’

“So read a portion of a Film Society of Lincoln Center announcement about “Imitations of Life: The Films of Douglas Sirk” (1.23.15 thru 1.6.16), a comprehensive retrospective that “tracks Sirk’s artistry from his early German films through to his early Hollywood forays into multiple genres and on to the now-canonical works of his late career.”

Respectful Sirk Takedown,” posted on 2.22.10: “The German-born Douglas Sirk has long been considered a world-class, pantheon-level filmmaker. That’s because the film dweebs have been telling us for years that the dreadfully banal soap-opera acting, grandiose emotionalism and conservative suburban milieus in his films are all of an operatic pitch-perfect piece and are meant as ironic social criticism. (Or something like that.)

“The dweebs are playing an old snob game. They’re basically saying that you have to be a serious cineaste to recognize Sirk’s genius, and that if you don’t recognize it then you need to think things through because you’re just not as perceptive as you need to be.

There’s no winning against this mindset, which is somewhere between a schoolyard bully move and an intellectual con. The dweebs (and I’m talking about a very small and cloistered group of big-city critics) have put one over on us. And I’m suggesting, due respect, that the time has come to push back on Sirk and to consider him once again as the Guiding Light-level director that some (myself included) believe that he always was.

Sirk was mostly dismissed by critics of the ’50s and early ’60s for making films that were no more and no less than what they seemed to be — i.e., emotionally dreary, visually lush melodramas about repressed women suffering greatly through crises of the heart as they struggled to maintain tidy, ultra-proper appearances.

In his praise of Written on the Wind, Roger Ebert wrote that “to appreciate [this film] probably takes more sophistication than to understand one of Ingmar Bergman‘s masterpieces, because Bergman’s themes are visible and underlined, while with Sirk the style conceals the message.”

Aaaah, the old concealment game! John Ford used to do this also, but you can watch Ford’s films, or at least savor what’s good about them (despite the Irish sentimentality). If Ebert’s comment isn’t Orwellian film-dweeb speak, I don’t know what would be.

Criterion’s Written on the Wind Bluray pops on 2.1.22.