“Carol” a poignant and lyrical movie with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara
Released today, the brilliant movie directed by Todd Haynes, that ran for Cannes in May 2015, features a magistral Cate Blanchett and a subtle Rooney Mara. A must-see.
Carol, the magnificent new film by Todd Haynes, made a big impression at Cannes. A lyrical movie in the classic tradition of Hollywood melodramas, which tells the story of a 1950s lesbian love.
Gather two bodies that attract each other irresistibly, create a cocoon of images around them, and maintain them in this Eden for as long as possible − cinema sometimes displays a radical and heart-rending simplicity. It’s this candour that director Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, 1998, Far From Heaven, 2002) is aiming for in his sixth feature, Carol, the most beautiful big-screen romance in years. A story about love and social constraints that moved audiences at this year’s Festival de Cannes, and conjures up a rhapsodic 1950s America through an adaptation of a 1952 Patricia Highsmith novel that was originally published under the pseudonym Claire Morgan. An ode to lyricism, both in life and on screen, which stands out in comparison to today’s movies' output of raw, violent or kitchen-sink realism and “cinéma vérité.”
At its centre stand two women: weary, bourgeois Carol (Cate Blanchett in an Oscar-worthy performance) and Therese, a young shop girl who’s not entirely in tune with her sexuality as the film begins (Rooney Mara, softer than usual). They meet and try to live out their love despite their differences in age, status and everything else… Around them evolve a jealous husband (grandiose Kyle Chandler, hero of Friday Night Lights) and a social code that refuses to aknowledge lesbians. In real melodramas, it’s all about the dichotomy between two worlds that converge and their relationship with the outside one. How do you soften the irremediable clash between internal and external reality? Everything that Haynes films, from Carol and Therese’s first meeting to their first embrace, from their secret dinners to their feverish gazes, delicately attempts to answer this question. Almost inevitably, each shot is veiled in melancholy, as if everything were already over when it had barely begun, as if catastrophe were eroding pleasure at the very moment it was born, as if the present became, in the blink of an eye, an inaccessible memory. This Proustian intensification is something we already witnessed at the beginning of the century with In the Mood for Love. While Carol doesn’t quite reach the legendary depth of Wong Kar-wai’s masterpiece – its narrative is more linear for a start – it gets voluptuously close, and leaves a lasting impression on the viewer.
The camera, operated by Ed Lachman (the genius director of photography who has also worked with Larry Clark), slips across skin, fabric and sparkling sets but doesn’t fall into the temptation of decorativeness. Even if it is so easy to confuse the two, Haynes is an aesthete but definitely not a simple illuminator. His visions are heavy with meaning, wrought in the gold of a mise en scène that is precise, sensitive and electrified with intimacy. Who else today could capture the instant when a body stiffens with pain at the moment of a break-up? Who else could be able to catch that killing detail during an embrace − the hand that tenses or, on the contrary, frees itself? Using the immersive possibilities of cinema, Carol offers a sensual, whispering odyssey that is miles away from the upfront codes of lesbian chic. Haynes’s last vintage-style melodrama, Far From Heaven, was also about impossible love (between a black gardener and a white middle-class woman) in an America frozen in Technicolor. As a result, one might be tempted to reproach him for taking refuge in a critique of the past, of not wanting to engage with his own era. But in fact, despite first appearances, he does engage with it. One could even say he stares its intolerances in the face and, by way of resistance, strives to create pure beauty.
Carol by Todd Haynes. Film show in France.
By Olivier Joyard.