Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-06-09
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Director Todd Haynes on 'Carol'
by Nick Davis
2015-12-16

This article shared 6654 times since Wed Dec 16, 2015
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Todd Haynes's Carol is more than just a triumph for LGBT cinema. It's at least two triumphs—maybe more.

The predicaments of same-sex desire in an anti-LGBT culture—one that antagonizes lesbians and gay men while also pretending we do not exist—have rarely unfolded on screen with such sensitivity and dramatic layering. The two lovers—an upscale suburban housewife named Carol ( Cate Blanchett ) and an aspiring photographer named Therese ( Rooney Mara )—follow very different paths into their world-shaking encounter with each other, doubling the movie's opportunities for poignant insight.

But Carol isn't just a story about concealment or repression. In the women's scenes together, and around other characters "in the life," the film showcases passionate impulse, breathtaking intimacy, even glimmers of sardonic humor that we rarely behold in 50s-set dramas, especially those with gay characters. Awards buzz is already deafening for this otherwise quiet tale.

Director Todd Haynes recently presented Carol at the Chicago International Film Festival, where it won the Q Hugo for best LGBT feature. While in town, he spoke to the Windy City Times about how Carol recalls but also departs from his earlier work, like his stylized tearjerker Far from Heaven ( 2002 ) and his gender-bending glam-rock fantasia Velvet Goldmine ( 1998 ). After sharing fond memories of time he spent in Chicago with the late, beloved Roger Ebert, his conversation shifted to his own memories of first love.

Windy City Times: You have described Carol's biggest goal as capturing a universal experience of falling in love. I so appreciate you approaching lesbian lives not as marginal or "other" but as front-and-center human stories, reflecting aspects of everybody's experience. That said, lesbian relationships, especially in the early 1950s, clearly confront particular social and psychological pressures. So how did you balance the general and specific dimensions of this drama?

Todd Haynes: This story reminded me of my own intensely lovelorn youth, and of being in Therese's position. I remember that kind of painful, pleasurable tunnel you enter around whomever you're completely obsessing over, trying to decode every one of that person's gestures. Later, I'd ask, was that intense, precarious anxiety I felt in those situations because I was gay? Or was it something that everybody feels?

In preparing for Carol, I started watching old Hollywood love stories: Now, Voyager ( 1942 ) with Bette Davis, Letter from an Unknown Woman ( 1948 ) and Brief Encounter ( 1946 ), to name a few. Most of those classics favor the female perspective, and most use voiceover or other cinematic devices to turn these women's subjectivities into absolute echo chambers of the love they're feeling. Something about the women's perspective in these films, which governs the storytelling but stems from their powerlessness in their own lives, makes them slightly less "universal," even if they matched my experience.

I can't speak to how many heterosexual men shared this sense of being pathologized by their own desire, driven to near-madness by not knowing how another person feels in return. The power relations are just so different. But as a gay guy, yes, I can identify with that powerlessness that I think many women feel, which has been so demonstrated in a certain tradition of movies. Maybe I've been overstating the "universality" of an experience like Therese's, because I felt I understood it so well.

WCT: That's fair, though it's worth remembering that in the period you're describing, close to when Carol is set, studios did assume everyone could relate to women characters. And they were proven right, all the time! Female-led melodramas were huge hits and major award winners.

TH: Yeah! Lo and behold, a family might go see a movie, and maybe the wife decided what they all would see. Today, it's assumed the teenage boy makes all those decisions, and Hollywood invests exclusively in that consumer. This is just another reminder that we are not always moving in progressive directions, especially when it comes to women and their lives.

WCT: Do you think that's changing? I'm teaching a queer cinema course at Northwestern right now, and the room is full of folks—queer and straight, all over every map—and they're identifying more with a range of sexually diverse images than I saw even five or 10 years ago in the same class.

TH: That's great to hear, and polls always tell us how young people feel sexual identity is fundamentally fluid. Fixed, genetic notions of sexuality always bug me a little. They provide safe, clean categories that you can legislate around, and they're good for stopping Republicans from bringing up the issue of "choice" in our sexual lives. But in important ways, choice is always a factor in our personal and sexual lives.

This is something Therese learns in Carol: that saying "no" is also making a choice. She's not making choices in the beginning, which is part of being young and semi-permeable. But there are reasons why and when that starts to change. Maybe we've been hurt, like Therese is. Maybe we've settled down with somebody or have started a family and are trying not to think about sexual fluidity, to protect what we've built. Often our choices, whatever they are, have to do with self-preservation. We decide what our lives will be, what identities or storylines we will allow ourselves to feel inside of or outside of. That's certainly one thing Carol is about.

WCT: Carol is rare in your career as an unmistakable story about two gay characters in love. You aren't undermining identities, genders, or story structures as fully as you did with Safe ( 1995 ) or Velvet Goldmine ( 1998 ) or I'm Not There ( 2007 ).

TH: Not as much this time. I wanted to learn how films in that romantic tradition conducted desire, and how they construct barriers—between characters, or with the audience. Desire needs resistance to be felt. That's why Brokeback Mountain ( 2005 ) was such a revelation, making the love story a viable genre again, because in a world where it's increasingly hard to imagine why two people can't be together, that film presented a reason we hadn't seen. You as the audience are left just yearning for these reasons not to be true, and wishing that society was different. The same holds for The Price of Salt, Patricia Highsmith's novel that inspired Carol, and is true, I think, for our movie.

WCT: I will admit I stopped reading The Price of Salt after 15 pages because I wanted to be surprised by the movie.

TH: Oh, you have to go back!

WCT: I will, I promise. But one particular surprise I savored, having expected a lesbian love story with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, is a third character named Abby, played by Sarah Paulson. She is so fascinating, even if I gather her storyline has been somewhat compressed. Plus, an angel gets its wings whenever an out actor plays a gay role in a big movie. How did you and she discuss that part?

TH: Sarah is a fucking brilliant actress. I've seen her do so many different roles now, with different styles and different looks, and sometimes different numbers of heads. I considered several people, but Sarah just felt right in so many ways—and not as some kind of statement of self, as "the lesbian actress." She may have brought that to it, but also her actorly gift of being versatile and mercurial.

WCT: You feel that gift within the movie, even if you had somehow never seen her before. Abby has to make a different impression on us every time she appears, as we learn more of her backstory, and Sarah absolutely does.

TH: Oh, good. And, yes, everything got pared down from the novel, like always, including scenes we shot with Abby that we all still miss. But every amazing actor in the film was able to suggest what we needed, even without those scenes. When I showed the movie to Cate, the one time she cried had nothing to do with her. She was just watching Sarah's face as she drives in one wordless scene, reflecting everything that would have been weighing on that character's mind, at that time and place, in those circumstances.

WCT: I know how endlessly you have been asked about the New Queer Cinema that you and your film Poison ( 1991 ) helped to launch in the early 1990s. That movement took such risks, bringing more LGBT stories by LGBT artists to the screen than ever before. Is there anything about that movement we tend to misremember or omit today?

TH: Honestly, almost everything about it. But mostly, that radicalized, weaponized sense of standing really, truly outside of dominant norms and mainstream society. That was the message we were endlessly given. Gay lives did not matter. So, our point of view had an inherent mission, and an innate critique to offer. That's a harder thing to locate today, and that's part of what I miss, despite the unquestionable progress that we know in many ways has been the right path.


This article shared 6654 times since Wed Dec 16, 2015
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Sisters in Cinema presents Sister Outsider Juneteenth Celebration
2021-06-16
--From a press release - CHICAGO, IL- Sisters in Cinema, a Chicago-based 501(c)3 recently in the news for breaking ground on their new Media Arts Center, Is inviting all to participate in their inaugural Sister Outsider: Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday, June ...


Gay News

Music Box showing LGBTQ movie 'Summer of '85' on June 25
2021-06-16
Music Box Theatre & Music Box Films, 3733 N. Southport Ave., will present out gay writer/director Francois Ozon's French love story Summer of '85, theatrically in 35mm, on Friday, June 25. Adapted by Ozon from Aidan ...


Gay News

Siskel Film Center to reopen Aug. 6
2021-06-16
After closing its doors March 14, 2020 due to COVID-19, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's (SAIC) Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., will reopen for in-person screenings Friday, Aug. 6. With ...


Gay News

Women's soccer documentary to debut June 24 on HBO Max
2021-06-14
HBO Max debuted the official trailer for the women's soccer movie LFG ahead of the documentary's premiere on Thursday, June 24. Directed by Oscar winners Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine, LFG is an inside account ...


Gay News

Seb throws Carlos a quinceanero on 'High School Musical: The Musical: The Series'
2021-06-10
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is a streaming television show on Disney+ inspired by—you guessed it!—the High School Musical film series. It is set in East High School and has a unique storyline with ...


Gay News

Jay Españo named Artistic Director of PrideArts, planning 2021-22 season
2021-06-03
--From a press release - CHICAGO — Jay Espano, a Chicago actor, director, and filmmaker whose theater training includes education in The Philippines as well as an MFA from Chicago's Columbia College, has been named Artistic Director of PrideArts. Cheri Tatar, ...


Gay News

New queer comedy series revisits the women's bathroom
2021-06-02
Gal Pal Presents recently premiered a new comedy web series, titled Stalled, which aims to capture the gay nightclub women's restroom scene that you may have experienced, but may have flushed out of memory. The five-episode ...


Gay News

Becoming Johanna to air on WTTW
2021-05-31
--From a press release - Chicago, IL: Becoming Johanna, a compelling story that follows the struggles transgender teens face every day, airs Friday, June 25th at 8:30pm on WTTW (11.1 channel). The film follows Johanna, a 16-year-old transgender Latina, as she ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Love, Victor,' R.E.M., Cher, HIV film, Jane Lynch
2021-05-23
The Holy teen dramedy series Love, Victor returns June 11, as season two finds a newly out of the closet Victor entering his junior year at Creekwood High, a press release noted. This season, Victor faces ...


Gay News

Doc10 Film Festival returns and includes LGBTQ+ features
2021-05-21
Chicago Media Project (CMP) announced the full slate of films being showcased at the annual Doc10 Documentary Film Festival, returning June 17-20. The festival will feature socially distanced, COVID-responsible in-person ...


Gay News

FILM Lesbian Bar Project, Jagermeister collaborate on documentary
2021-05-20
Following the success of The Lesbian Bar Project PSA and fundraising campaign in 2020, The Lesbian Bar Project and Jagermeister's #savethenight initiative will premiere a documentary short that aims to bring greater awareness to the remaining ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Ben Platt, Cynthia Erivo, Miley Cyrus, 'Halston' series, Pink
2021-05-16
Tony winners Ben Platt (Aug. 13) and Cynthia Erivo (Aug. 20) are among the musicians slated to perform during the 2021 Citi Music Series on the Today show, Playbill noted. The series will include in-person concerts ...


Gay News

Black Lives, Black Words Int'l Project, Writers Theatre to premier Ride Share
2021-05-13
--From a press release - Glencoe, IL— Black Lives, Black Words co-founders Reginald Edmund and Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway and Writers Theatre Artistic Director Michael Halberstam and Executive Director Kathryn M. Lipuma announce Ride Share, a new ...


Gay News

FILM NewFest announces summer film series NewFest Pride
2021-05-13
NewFest, New York's leading LGBTQ+ film and media organization, announced programming for NewFest Pride, a new summer film series taking place this year from June 4-7. All film screenings and events will be available virtually to ...


Gay News

FILM Tello Films founder starts new production entity
2021-05-13
Veteran filmmaker Christin Baker, who launched the successful LGBTQ+, SVOD platform, Tello Films, in 2009—the first network dedicated to telling stories featuring and about lesbian/queer women—announced the launch of a ...


 



Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.