The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Fortnight: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, December 30-January 12

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All I Desire (1953)
Directed by Douglas Sirk
The characters in Sirk’s films are very often performing—both for themselves and for each other—as the people that they would like to be. Their ranks include Naomi Murdoch, the middle-aged vaudeville performer played by Barbara Stanwyck in one of two collaborations with the filmmaker (the other being 1956’s There’s Always Tomorrow). Naomi, who long ago left her school principal husband (played by Richard Carlson) and three children for private reasons, returns to their small Wisconsin town for the first time in several years on the impetus of daughter Lily’s request to watch her star in a high school play. The drama rises throughout Naomi’s encounters with her guarded and vulnerable ex-hubby, her dew-eyed thespian daughter (Lori Nelson), her older child still resenting abandonment (Marcia Henderson), her still-flame-nursing ex-lover (Lyle Bettger), and other figures for whom she continues to play a profoundly important role. She deliberates whether to stay or to go amidst a swirl of clashing people striving to cover with politeness their efforts to pull her close and push her away. At one point, she is asked to recite a poem, and delivers Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee?” for her family in a way that leaves clear her own needs. Aaron Cutler (December 31, 2:30pm, 6:30pm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Sirk retrospective)

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