All the Reasons to Love the Film "Carol" by Todd Haynes
This is a list request that overlaps strongly with my emotional, intellectual, and artistic pursuits. (Now accepting more Carol list requests! Best Rooney Mara hand gestures? All time best movie endings? Best movie minks? The ten times I saw Carol, ranked?)
- •Highsmith's conflation of the gaze of the criminal with the gaze of the loverThe novel that Carol is based on was written by crime writer Patricia Highsmith, whose stories of murder have been made into other genius films, from Strangers On A Train to The Talented Mr. Ripley. What makes her treatment of love unique is that that the feverish minds of her protagonists are no different when their fixation is romance instead of murder. You plot, plan, observe & fantasize about a lover as you might a victim. In Highsmith's words: murder is a kind of love, a kind of possessing.
- •Haynes's conflation of the gaze of the lover with the gaze of the audienceHaynes picks up Highsmith's baton and plunges us into the overheated mind of the lover through the mechanism of cinema itself. If love heightens our senses, cinema has the ability to do the same. The camera takes on the gaze of the lover, and just how in love every surface becomes a sign on which to read your potential fate, so every image in Haynes's frame becomes a sign to read the film.
- •Cate Blanchett's INSANE command of her body in response to whatever gaze happens to be pointed her wayNo one ever talks about this, but there are really two great and complimentary artforms that developed within cinema: the art of looking and the art of being seen. Carol nails both.
- •Rooney Mara's equally insane trust in the camera to pick up the tiniest gestures and shifts in expressionThe minimalist answer to Cate Blanchett's maximalism. It's as much a love affair between impressionism and expressionism as it is between characters.
- •It makes for amazing gifs.I know ListApp doesn't have GIFs yet so you're just going to have to trust me on this.
- •All the unexplained and vaguely perverse textural details that work to unsettle your expectations of period filmmakingBright Betsy, the doll who cries and wets herself. Rindy's dirty hair brush. Carol's lover and Carol's daughter sharing the same haircut. Therese smelling Carol's clothes and staring at Carol as she sleeps. All welcome reminders of how weird falling in love can be. Weird hot is the best hot.
- •References to 1950's photography, from Saul Leiter to the work of women photojournalists like Helen Levitt and Esther Bubley and Ruth OrkinLove when a filmmaking team does their homework. I love even more when references are used as more than Easter eggs, instead informing the language of the storytelling. And I love even more still when the modern object reveals new ways of seeing the artistry of the past. The Carol team has done all three.
- •The colors, my god, the COLORSCorals and chartreuses and mauves, oh my! In a cinematic landscape where digital color correction has flattened our color expressivity to expected patterns of orange and teal, Ed Lachman's photography in Carol is a flag planted in the sand for the unbeatable effects of manipulating color on set through light and design.
- •The grain of 16mmBehold the erotic power of celluloid! Watch the organic patterns of the grain, the speckles of blue in the blacks, the softness of the image as it grazes over skin and fabric.
- •The way the sound plays in a theaterThe biggest benefit of seeing Carol in theaters is being able to experience the complexity of the sound design, as the score, the environment, and the dialogue all seem to float from different locations in the theater, each drawing you deeper into the subjective mindset of the characters. Well, that and Cate Blanchett's voice rattles the air itself.
- •Obstructions and frames within the frameKeys you into the film's language of looking, as you have to seek the characters out from behind windows and in far off doorways. But it also subtly suggests the private nature of the affair. Our emotional perspective alternates between the up close & close up perspective of the lover & the colder perspective of the gossip—outside the bubble of the rendezvous, trying to make sense of a scene that we haven't been completely invited into. (Bonus points for the upside down love scene!)
- •EditingWithin scenes Affonso Gonçalves's editing in Carol emphasizes the pauses and the syncopated rhythms of performance. A credit to Phyllis Nagy's screenplay as much as the editing, scenes are pieced together to leave a sense of mystery and privacy to the characters' encounters. Time expands and shrinks depending on the person you're with, and life continues between the cuts.
- •For developing complex and sympathetic men without needing those men to dominate the story.Listen, you've gotta workkkkkk to find nuance when you're dealing with a character named Harge.
- •For not spinning postwar New York into 1950's sugarYes, Sandy Powell's costumes are gorgeous, but bless all the scuzzy windows and bare walls that production designer Judy Becker has chosen for this vision of the 1950's. The world is so hard, then and now.
- •THAT FINAL SHOTOne of the few movies that keeps you guessing until the very end. Surprisingly true even if you've read the book!
- •Cheekbone fetish
- •For being a queer love story that neither generalizes nor preaches, but instead showcases the outsider perspective of all profound love.Suck it The Danish Girl.