“Melodrama is a combination of kitsch, and craziness, and trashiness,” Douglas Sirk once observed. “There is a very short distance between high art and trash, and trash that contains the element of craziness is by this very quality nearer to art.” Drama Queens is an archival exhibition that explores the ways in which filmmakers have reinvented, deconstructed, or parodied the Hollywood melodrama. Artists include Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Dara Birnbaum, Stan Brakhage, Ximena Cuevas, Hollis Frampton, George Kuchar, Kalup Linzy, Tony Oursler, Yvonne Rainer, Andy Warhol, and John Waters. Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows (1955) and its two brilliant and provocative remakes, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Angst essen Seele Auf (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul) (1974) and Todd Haynes’s Far from Heaven (2002) form the cornerstone of the exhibition.

“The type of character I am interested in, and which I tried to retain in melodrama, is the doubtful, the ambiguous, the uncertain, “ Sirk continues. “I am interested in circularity, in the circle—people arriving at the place they started out from. This is why you will find what I call tragic rondos in many of my films, people going in circles.” Yvonne Rainer, who makes this tragic rondo the central choreographic motif in her Lives of Performers (1972), notes that “melodrama is the place where behavior and theater meet.” Typical of the works in this exhibition, her film captures the “unalleviated intensity of emotion characteristic of soap opera, where everything is always in crisis or climax.”

Organized by Joshua Siegel, Associate Curator, Department of Film.