Todd Haynes

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1) Could he be any better
2) Why did he not bring his lover to the oscars, as opposed to his mother, they both mean the same thing.
3) he was fucking robbed.

anthony easton (anthony), Monday, 24 March 2003 06:08 (twenty years ago) link

His mom brought him into the world. Lovers come and go.

I'd bring my damn mom too. . .

That Girl (thatgirl), Monday, 24 March 2003 06:14 (twenty years ago) link

I don't know, does he have a lover? I think he broke up with my old friend Jim. my Velvet Goldmine connection, a few years ago.

I hear he did really well at the Independant Spirit Awards, though.

Arthur (Arthur), Monday, 24 March 2003 07:39 (twenty years ago) link

i am not sure, but i mean the whole bring yr mom code, i thot haynes was too hip for it.

anthony easton (anthony), Monday, 24 March 2003 07:54 (twenty years ago) link

maybe there's no "code" involved and he just wanted to bring his fucking mom

M Matos (M Matos), Monday, 24 March 2003 09:18 (twenty years ago) link

yeah, and maybe he is selling out.

anthony easton (anthony), Monday, 24 March 2003 09:23 (twenty years ago) link

How can you ever become too hip for your mom?

I'd totally bring my mom if I ever made it to the Oscars.

Melissa W (Melissa W), Monday, 24 March 2003 09:41 (twenty years ago) link

yeah, and maybe you're being paranoid

M Matos (M Matos), Monday, 24 March 2003 09:54 (twenty years ago) link

todd haynes is brilliant, i agree he was robbed, but for my money he's not one to hide his sexuality at all. so i think it's no big deal with the mum thing. adrien brody, come he never seems to come out of the house without his mum?

jeanne picot (jeanne picot), Monday, 24 March 2003 11:13 (twenty years ago) link

Look, if I was in the position to go to the Oscars my mom would position herself to be my plus one - OR I WOULD HAVE TO HEAR ABOUT IT FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE.

suzy (suzy), Monday, 24 March 2003 11:16 (twenty years ago) link

After being responsible for 'Velvet Goldmine' he should've gone in a disguise

dave q, Monday, 24 March 2003 11:32 (twenty years ago) link

I happen to agree, and Haynes' Safe was one of my favorite movies of the '90s.

Jody Beth Rosen (Jody Beth Rosen), Monday, 24 March 2003 11:33 (twenty years ago) link

my favorite quote about Velvet Goldmine comes from my then-girlfriend

Amie: [looks at watch] That was only two hours?!

M Matos (M Matos), Monday, 24 March 2003 11:35 (twenty years ago) link

I quite enjoyed following rant, though I haven't seen Far From Heaven yet and am looking forward to it. Romney liked it, FWIW.


A close friend of mine was a respected film critic for over a decade before packing it in to spend more time with her cat. While in situ, she was fascinating about the hypocrisy of her fellow preview-theatre troglodytes. She told of frequent occasions when the fraternity of critics (almost all film reviewers are male and look like badgers in glasses) had patently enjoyed a movie, only to retire and savage it in print.

I particularly remember her saying how there was an almost carnival atmosphere among the critics oogling Paul Verhoeven's kitsch go-go extravaganza Showgirls, but almost every reviewer slated the movie as offensive soft porn.

Showgirls is certainly a vulgarian's wet dream, but so is Moulin Rouge - it's just more socially acceptable (if marginally so) to like Elton John songs than to like strippers cat-fighting. If there's anything more annoying than critics being mealy-mouthed when a film's entertainment value exceeds its IQ, it's the same sages gushing over a film that has cultural pretensions but no heart. (This paper's critic, Jonathan Romney, is an exception and only recommends highly cultural works with pounds of raw heart - I just wish they weren't all set in Uzbekistan). How often have I trekked off to see a film, convinced I am about to watch a work of hitherto unimaginable cinematic genius worthy of Hitchcock, Kubrick and Bunuel rolled into one fat, beardy French uber-director, only to sit slack-jawed with disappointment at the monumental work of disengaged tedium passing before me?

So I should have known when I bunked off work to see "the best film of the year so far", "a marvel of production design", "more clever and literate than anything around", that it would be the Emperor's new turkey. Far from Heaven is director Tod Haynes' ludicrously overwrought tribute to Douglas Sirk's ludicrously overwrought Fifties' melodrama All That Heaven Allows. Haynes may have written a new screenplay, but the cast of characters and plot remains largely the same, with just a couple of updates that are supposed to be a sophisticated wink at a contemporary audience. For example, Julianne Moore's domestic goddess, Cathy, is not a widow, but the wife of a repressed homosexual, and she falls for a black, rather than a white, gardener. But it's still an utterly pointless act of retro devotion to anyone not given to musing, "Wow, that's really neat to have a closet queen in the remake, when the original starred Rock Hudson!" Furthermore, Dennis Quaid as Cathy's surly husband, Frank, is about as gay and "charming" as Billy Bob Thornton. Meanwhile Julianne Moore wafts through the autumnal haze of a master-class in cinematography (all the colours of the fall, geddit?) in startlingly full-skirted frocks, with all the period authenticity of one of those crinolined dollies you put on top of the loo roll. The LA Times wrote, "What she does with her role is so beyond the parameters of what we call great acting that it really defies categorization." Actually, it's so far beyond those parameters that it defies what I call acting. Moore is just a milky, wide-eyed canvas on which Haynes projects his stultifying lens.

And yet Far From Heaven is up for four Academy Awards, including Moore as best actress. But when you look at the films that have won best movie over recent years it all makes sense. There's American Beauty, The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, Driving Miss Daisy, Rain Man, and The Last Emperor: scrupulously tasteful but low-cal dinner-party fodder every one - films with literary associations that make people feel sophisticated, like knowing the correct way to eat artichokes. Was there ever anything more vomit-inducing than listening to the chattering classes forcing laughter at Shakespeare in Love just to show they got the tepid jokes about Webster and Marlowe?

Over the past 21 years the only two films that have won best film and deserve to be in any sane person's DVD collection are Unforgiven and Gladiator, both of them rudely vibrant movies that know how to take a big screen by storm. Over the same time equally mesmerising classics such as Blade Runner, LA Confidential, Strictly Ballroom, Heat and The Fellowship of the Ring, failed to triumph. I am fairly certain it's because none of them was scripted, directed or remotely touched by a luvvie, such as Sir Tom Stoppard or Sam Mendes. Judging by this criterion, Sir David Hare's screenplay for The Hours should help that turgid piece of pseudo- intellectual onanism carry off the top honour this year. But I shall still hold that the year's best films were The Two Towers, Laissez Passer and The Devil's Backbone. And for those who want to see a masterpiece about the price of emotional repression in a censorious society, may I suggest Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love? If Far From Heaven is painting by numbers, In the Mood for Love is a Turner sunset.

N. (nickdastoor), Monday, 24 March 2003 13:50 (twenty years ago) link

Well I hated Velvet Goldmine and Safe with a passion - but really liked Far From Heaven.

Pete (Pete), Monday, 24 March 2003 14:10 (twenty years ago) link

Showgirls is certainly a vulgarian's wet dream, but so is Moulin Rouge - it's just more socially acceptable (if marginally so) to like Elton John songs than to like strippers cat-fighting.

Yay, I am a vulgarian!

Nicole (Nicole), Monday, 24 March 2003 14:25 (twenty years ago) link

You AWFUL person, Nicole! ;-)

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 March 2003 14:45 (twenty years ago) link

"a masterpiece about the price of emotional repression in a censorious society" suggests that this Independentwriter doesn’t think the film resonates today, and "utterly pointless act of retro devotion" compounds that. Racism and homophobia are so retro! Granted, I also very much like Sirk but Far From Heaven is exquisite– and was, imho, the best American film of last year. (but , yes, "in the mood for love" was better.)

scott pl. (scott pl.), Monday, 24 March 2003 15:43 (twenty years ago) link

The key to Far From Heaven I think is that the end is not as downbeat as a Sirkian melodrama merely because we know what happened to kids of broken marriages in the fifties and sixties and that was not particularly tragic. What might have seemed in the fifties to be a crushing defeat is actually the start of her liberation, which is what the driving up the hill at the end signifies for me.

Pete (Pete), Monday, 24 March 2003 15:46 (twenty years ago) link

Not all of Sirk's endings were "downbeat." All That Heaven Allows has a redemptive ending, albeit one whose abruptness might raise questions about the narrative. Written on the Wind has a tragic ending, but still allows for some hope, with Rock and Lauren at least riding away from the house that held so much misery for them. Imitation of Life is certainly a tragedy in many respects, but different critics have interpreted Sarah Jane's returning to her "family" as either a gesture of reconciliation or resignation.

So I think the ending of Far from Heaven is in keeping with the ambivalent endings of several of Sirk's melodramas.

It's a great film. Todd Haynes at the Oscars is sort of incongruous. I'm actually relieved he didn't win.

Amateurist (amateurist), Monday, 24 March 2003 16:19 (twenty years ago) link

was everyone too sidetracked by the endless sirk references and the admittedly fantastic cinematography to notice that far from heaven was actually k-boring plotwise?

mark p (Mark P), Monday, 24 March 2003 16:22 (twenty years ago) link

the most surprising thing about far from heaven was that there were absolutely NO surprises. to me, it just sort of set itself up to plod, presumably coasting on the assumption that all the self-congratulatory film-school sirk de soiling bizness would be enough

for me it kinda wasn't

mark p (Mark P), Monday, 24 March 2003 16:28 (twenty years ago) link

I don't think the Sirk stuff was necessarily a "sidetrack"--it was, at least from a certain perspective, a big part of the meat of the film. Although my mother and her friend, who are not familiar with Sirk at all, managed to enjoy Haynes's film very much.

Haynes's is v. talented at making "impossible" films--films that can't really be assimilated to any one set of critical expectations, and that are necessarily frustrating for that and other reasons. They're difficult to love, in my experience. I'm still wondering if that sort of thing has a value in itself, but given how much thought I've given to Far from Heaven I suppose the answer is yes.

Amateurist (amateurist), Monday, 24 March 2003 16:33 (twenty years ago) link

v. talented at making "impossible" films--films that can't really be assimilated to any one set of critical expectations, and that are necessarily frustrating for that and other reasons

can you expand on this pls?

mark p (Mark P), Monday, 24 March 2003 16:35 (twenty years ago) link

Ack yes yes yes I can but can I say: "later"? I'm at work and it's not that I'm incapable of expanding, I'm just afraid of starting a little research project with so much else I should be doing.

Amateurist (amateurist), Monday, 24 March 2003 16:37 (twenty years ago) link

i still say all frame no picture

mark p (Mark P), Monday, 24 March 2003 16:39 (twenty years ago) link

Sometimes I suspect that as well--that the anxiety produced by the films comes more from the nature of their place in the culture (i.e. a 50s melodrama made in 2002), the debates they stir up, (ie. the FRAME) than by the content. But Far from Heaven was a beautifully-made picture; perhaps he didn't have every aspect of Sirk's style down pat, but the reconstruction was more complete than any other filmmaker could probably hope to achieve. The question is whether the "beautifully-made picture" and the anxious object have a meaningful relationship with each other.

Amateurist (amateurist), Monday, 24 March 2003 16:43 (twenty years ago) link

Why my suspicions are usually quieted: Hayne's genuine talent as a filmmaker, and not just a "technical" sort of talent. In Safe, when Peter is talking to Carol and suddenly points to a coyote off at the foot of the mountains--the hard cut to the coyote is completely charged. I wish there were more moments like this one in his films, but they're there.

Amateurist (amateurist), Monday, 24 March 2003 16:50 (twenty years ago) link

Last I heard (as of a few months ago), he doesn't have a lover -- not the sort you'd bring to the Oscars, anyways. So now's your chance, Anthony.

Chris P (Chris P), Monday, 24 March 2003 16:52 (twenty years ago) link

my anxiety stemmed from the fact that it was a 50s throwback sirk-style done seemingly for its own sake

hollow meta levels

i think i'd rather see a douglas sirk film in 2002.

mark p (Mark P), Monday, 24 March 2003 17:03 (twenty years ago) link

seven months pass...
Spotted: A guy wearing purple eyeshadow, mint green iridescent leather trenchcoat, jeans, and light blue sequined gaiters over black cowboy boots bicycling across the intersection of Park Anenue and 57th Street. He brought a little Velvet Goldmine into our lives today.

felicity (felicity), Friday, 7 November 2003 21:19 (twenty years ago) link

in the names of continuity and hypertextuality:

Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story: classic or what?

gygax! (gygax!), Friday, 7 November 2003 21:23 (twenty years ago) link

one year passes...
apparently beyonce is 'to play bob dylan' in haynes' newie. play fuckin loud.

N_RQ, Wednesday, 23 March 2005 16:13 (eighteen years ago) link

All of a sudden I'm interested in Bob Dylan.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 16:19 (eighteen years ago) link

i heart todd h.

far from heaven wz a bit of a slog tho

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 16:36 (eighteen years ago) link

part of me wants a zim biopic, but only if it stuck to the good bits (64-6). that would be incredible, or could be. the problem with the ali film was it kind of replicated the docs that already existed, and i guess that might be why they are taking a roundabout route to biopicking bob. who knows. maybe beyonce will shine.

N_RQ, Wednesday, 23 March 2005 16:41 (eighteen years ago) link

I would think Blood on the Tracks era would make a better film ... oh wait: Renaldo & Clara

Silky Sensor (sexyDancer), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 16:43 (eighteen years ago) link

Is it Beyonce for sure? Here's a report that a friend of mine e-mailed me the other day:

Bob Dylan has given permission to a Hollywood studio to make a film about his life and will be portrayed by seven actors - one of them a black woman reports The Times Online.

Todd Haynes confirmed last week that he is searching for a woman who can do justice to the short white Jewish singer's "inner blackness". The seven will play Dylan during different eras in his 43-year career, starting in the 1960s when his song "The Times They Are A-Changin'" turned into an anti-war anthem. Costing £30m, the film is due for release next year under the title "I'm Not There: Suppositions on a Film Concerning Dylan".

It is traditional in films spanning a lifetime for characters to be played by more than one actor, but rarer for them to change sex or race. Haynes is considering actresses ranging from pop singer Beyoncé Knowles to tennis champion Venus Williams and the one and only Oprah Winfrey.

I'm really curious about this. Like Ned, I could care less about Dylan's music, but I do think he's a pretty compelling personality and icon.

jaymc (jaymc), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 16:58 (eighteen years ago) link

if they film any of this in MN i will definitely go to rubberneck.

f--gg (gcannon), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 16:59 (eighteen years ago) link

He does a bang-up job interviewing Van Sant on the new Pvt Idaho DVD.

Far From Heaven seems to work best on people who recognize top-flight pastiches can unleash emotions, like Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 17:03 (eighteen years ago) link

please let it be Beyonce.

ryan (ryan), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 17:11 (eighteen years ago) link

im v. v. v. excited about the new one, even more if it is oprah

anthony easton (anthony), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 17:14 (eighteen years ago) link

i could definitely go for of those buttercrackers with some cream cheese right now.

ie am hungry., Wednesday, 23 March 2005 17:16 (eighteen years ago) link

oh wait.

yes, beyonce. what a terrible idea. it is a pointless, and obscene, gimmick.

i am still hungery., Wednesday, 23 March 2005 17:17 (eighteen years ago) link

he is the only one who can convert well-learned "film theory" into an actual real unexpected film, i think: i guess i felt w.far from heaven that he confused his fondness for sirk with studious reverence for "sirk theory" and never shimmied out of that overcareful trap --- less mise-en-scene than mise-en-prison

(but if you swap sirk for glam, and VG for FFH, i wd probably be defendin it, so maybe it's just that i'm not really THAT big on sirk myself)

the person i wz with - unrepentent sexual pirate and general tomboy activist - knew nothing abt sirk or sirk theory and wz emotionally overwhelmed, except in a bad way: we had to go straight to a gay bar after and have several drinks

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 17:22 (eighteen years ago) link

I think liking Far From Heaven hinges heavily on liking Sirk (which I do luckily.)

I'd rather he get Venus Williams (or Lisa Leslie) than Beyonce though!

Alex in SF (Alex in SF), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 17:35 (eighteen years ago) link

oprah would be more interesting. beyonce is too robotic.

jed_ (jed), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 17:40 (eighteen years ago) link

one of the answers in today's nytimes crossword is "okra winfrey"

Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 17:41 (eighteen years ago) link

you can't BE "too robotic"!!

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 17:42 (eighteen years ago) link


jed_ (jed), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 17:46 (eighteen years ago) link

Netflix Dec. 1, didn't know. (And, after checking, yes to my question.)

clemenza, Thursday, 16 November 2023 16:12 (one week ago) link

I caught a preview that was open to the public earlier this week. Beautiful looking film, Lincoln Center will screen an exclusive 35mm print so it's probably worth seeing it there. I liked it quite a bit. Richard Brody of The New Yorker was kind of tough on the film ("good film by a great director") but it may very well be the best film I've seen that was theatrically released this year. Still early though, there are a few more I'm looking forward to.

birdistheword, Thursday, 16 November 2023 23:49 (one week ago) link

Believe I will receive a MUBI GO ticket for it in a week or two which I presume will work at Lincoln Center, just saw the trailer there today in fact.

Shifty Henry’s Swing Club (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 16 November 2023 23:53 (one week ago) link

I saw it at the Chicago film festival and loved it. It's a tonally tricky film, but Haynes pulls it off. It's a lot funnier and campier than I was expecting while still taking its characters seriously. And the music, which is adapted from an 1970s Michel Legrand score, is deliriously great.

jaymc, Friday, 17 November 2023 04:41 (one week ago) link

Re: the humor, Haynes talked about that during the Q&A at our screening. (His Q&A's are wonderful and he comes off as a wonderful human being - if he ever makes a personal appearance, definitely go see him.) He mentioned it's unpredictable how an audience will react because at Cannes, the audience didn't really laugh even though the reception was enthusiastic, but we did and he was like "you guys, YOU get it."

Speaking of personal appearances, he's got a couple schedule for December 1 at the Museum of the Moving Image, and I would highly recommend this one because the "other films" is very likely just Superstar, which was recently "remastered" per Haynes by the same people credited for the restoration for Dottie.

birdistheword, Friday, 17 November 2023 06:49 (one week ago) link

Good tip, thanks!

Shifty Henry’s Swing Club (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 17 November 2023 07:03 (one week ago) link

the music, which is adapted from an 1970s Michel Legrand score

Is it Summer of '42? Ballsy move if so.

active spectator of ecocide and dispossession (Eric H.), Friday, 17 November 2023 14:46 (one week ago) link

The Go-Between

jaymc, Friday, 17 November 2023 14:54 (one week ago) link

He mentioned it's unpredictable how an audience will react because at Cannes, the audience didn't really laugh even though the reception was enthusiastic, but we did and he was like "you guys, YOU get it."

I saw some Letterboxd reviews from viewers at my screening who complained that people were laughing inappropriately at things that weren't supposed to be funny, and I thought "no, I think they were supposed to be funny."

jaymc, Friday, 17 November 2023 14:57 (one week ago) link

It's on my Netflix account today and will watch. Local critics are ecstatic.


thanks bird!

bulb after bulb, Friday, 17 November 2023 15:35 (one week ago) link

It's on my Netflix account today and will watch. Local critics are ecstatic.

You mean you can actually stream now or add in the queue until it lands December 1st?

Shifty Henry’s Swing Club (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 17 November 2023 23:17 (one week ago) link

Critic access.

Just seen this at the cinema and thought it was fantastic. Beautifully shot, maintains a consistent unsettling undercurrent throughout, and great acting in particular between Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman.

Dr Drudge (Bob Six), Saturday, 18 November 2023 16:44 (one week ago) link

I enjoyed it without being rhapsodic -- my usual approach to Haynes. He has more DO YOU SEE moments than you'd expect from a guy with his resume. I only got the campness when Haynes alluded to Persona.

But, boy, this is Portman's best work, isn't it? I've long distrusted her -- she comes off in other things like an AI version of an actor. She plays a mediocre actress without fuss.

I thought of Tar a lot: the way the vacuum-sealed compositions act as an ironic strategy; the light mockery at the expense of the self-absorbed artist that never turns cruel; the way a couple scenes (the lipstick scene for instance) play with erotic tension without succumbing.

i tend to feel the DO-YOU-SEE moments are literally and consciously a *device* rather than an inadvertent clumsiness of sensibility but i'm not sure what difference this has an effect (e.g on me rolling my eyes)

mark s, Saturday, 18 November 2023 18:52 (one week ago) link

He's damn skilled in other depts so it's an affect at this point

His Q&A's are wonderful and he comes off as a wonderful human being - if he ever makes a personal appearance, definitely go see him.

I saw a preview screening of Safe and the audience was more-or-less contemptuous. They were all snickering knowingly at the final scenes, which caused Haynes to gently tell them that he didn't think they were supposed to be funny. Meanwhile, the women behind me who had talked through the film also continued to talk through the Q&A itself until I cursed them out. It was nightmarish for me, I can't imagine how he must have felt, yet kept his cool.

Halfway there but for you, Sunday, 19 November 2023 03:35 (one week ago) link

Oh wow, so this was back in 1995 (since it was a preview)? I feel bad for him, but he got the last laugh - it topped the Village Voice's critics poll for the best film of the decade, and I know he had to be aware of that.

I actually asked him to sign my Criterion edition of that film not too long ago, and not only did he inscribe it to me (I didn't ask him to, he asked for my name) but he drew a ♡ on it too. A sweet, sweet man.

birdistheword, Sunday, 19 November 2023 04:44 (one week ago) link

Alfred I think you nailed what’s never worked for me about Natalie Portman as an actress

The Triumphant Return of Bernard & Stubbs (Raymond Cummings), Wednesday, 22 November 2023 19:20 (six days ago) link

Watch this one, though!

Excellent review, Alfred

jaymc, Wednesday, 22 November 2023 22:24 (six days ago) link

Thank you!

...and yes, he makes a closet joke in the first 30 seconds.

an icon of a worried-looking, long-haired, bespectacled man (C. Grisso/McCain), Thursday, 23 November 2023 18:24 (five days ago) link

Safe is his only 'great' film imo. It's critique and ambiguities are so sharp! Nothing he's done since seems at all convincing. His version of pastiche is so on the nose, like an episode of a kids show where the main character falls asleep while writing a book report and has a dream where all the regular characters are versions of themselves in a Sirk movie/glam band etc. all that heaven allows was a totally pointless movie. Who needed Sirk to be spelled out like that?

I like the adaptations okay, particularly the really vulgar Mildred pierce miniseries, most memorable to me is the nude scene of Veda. A way better part than in the Joan Crawford version.

The new one sounds like nothing.

plax (ico), Thursday, 23 November 2023 19:09 (five days ago) link

Sorry, far from heaven I meant

plax (ico), Thursday, 23 November 2023 19:09 (five days ago) link

although I think the mistake does underscore something

plax (ico), Thursday, 23 November 2023 19:10 (five days ago) link

His version of pastiche is so on the nose

I like Velvet Goldmine a lot, but the problem is that the only viewers who can make all the connections are probably going to be very opinionated about "the meaning of" Bowie, glam, Iggy, etc., and not accept Haynes' interpolation.

Halfway there but for you, Thursday, 23 November 2023 20:41 (five days ago) link

I laughed more often with (not at) this one quite a lot. Give it a shot.

Far from Heaven is the only Haynes I’ve seen that, yes, felt basically pointless. I remember Morbs used to say it was better than the Sirk and thinking his addiction to being against the grain led him to a truly bad take on that one

active spectator of ecocide and dispossession (Eric H.), Friday, 24 November 2023 00:12 (four days ago) link

Not even Haynes would say that.

He has a wonderful analytical eye and I'd like someone to just get him to talk about a bunch of his favourite films for hours (like how ppl rightly indulge Scorsese), but Far from Heaven simply didn't come off.

Basically agree with Plax that Safe is his best but he was really great in the 90s and then mostly pretty good since. I always look forward to catching his new one.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 24 November 2023 00:45 (four days ago) link

I remember Morbs used to say it was better than the Sirk

lol Morbs

I loved Far From Heaven. I actually saw that in its original run, the first time I saw any of Haynes's films in a theater, and it completely blew me away. Easily the most gorgeous looking film I had seen up to that point and a big reason why I started going to the theater more and more. What's miraculous is that every physical element - clothing, scenery, cinematography and lighting whether in composition, detail or color - worked so well in tandem it clearly looked like a director's hand was guiding everything, and yet when I finally saw the DVD extras, I was stunned that Haynes had given plenty of freedom to all the department heads on that film. It's a credit to their combined talents - just look at their filmographies and it's no surprise they were able to do such great work.

This seems to be less the case nowadays, but during the mid-'00s to early 10's, it seemed like every time I caught a vintage Hollywood film in a repertory theater, you'd always have some jackass in their late teens to late '20s snickering and laughing at the film for being of its time. Sirk, Minnelli, Nick Ray, The Night of the Hunter, etc...there'd always be an obnoxious display of historical arrogance. And I always thought of Far From Heaven as responding to that, as if to say that aesthetic and that stylistic vocabulary not only remains vital but can address more things that people continue to face in their own lives in the world today. And the film does a powerful job of getting across the anguish its characters go through - the ending still kills me, the way two people have to deny themselves a kind of happiness that's all too rare for anyone. I still know people who have a lot done to them over interracial relationships or who struggled not too long ago with coming out to their family, and even if the world and the culture isn't what it once was, that pain and those raw emotions haven't gone away for everyone.

birdistheword, Friday, 24 November 2023 07:37 (four days ago) link

If I had to teach a film class, I'd have them study the whole sequence where Cathy runs some errands with Raymond and ends up dancing with him in the bar. When you think about storytelling in terms of what the characters are going through internally and how that progresses as a plot, look at the way that whole section of the film depicts that cinematically. The use of color alone is amazing - the way Raymond's clothes blend into the welcoming autumnal background, and how Cathy is isolated and alone in the purple coat wrapped around her. When they finally dance in the bar, and it's like the moment where you realize there's something here that can really turn into love, they do this neat trick where the light on the dance floor bathes them in a color that visually unites them - it doesn't clash with the colors of their clothing, it somehow makes them all blend in uniformly. All of a sudden, it's like some missing balance has been restored.

birdistheword, Friday, 24 November 2023 07:49 (four days ago) link

Safe is a top 10 ever film for me. Maybe my favourite genre of films is "it's a horror film but you don't realise it until later" (see also: Dead Ringers)

meaner stinks meat bake it cone (flamboyant goon tie included), Friday, 24 November 2023 09:33 (four days ago) link

Last three posts are booming.

Its a powerfully angry film about AIDS and it brings together two rich seams of queer discursivity - the sophisticated semiotics of illness developed in that period (e.g. Crimp, Gran Fury, General Idea) and Sirkian (is that a word?) irony and detachment. All the ways it updates Sirk (sad, rich housewife; opulent but dismal decor; all consuming spiritual decay) feel original and with a rare contemporary urgency.

Far from heaven just feels (to me) like someone explaining Sirk and in doing so undermining the key tensions (surface/depth, public/private, etc) that animate those films. I feel like someone is sitting beside me saying 'actually this could be a metaphor for sexual repression' and start looking at my watch. Safe (and Fassbinder, even Mark Rappaport) do a much better service to Sirk* by working at a slight remove that leaves his seeming resistance to explicitness intact.

(I think the various anecdotes about nasty snickering audiences at Sirk and Minnelli screenings, hostile Q&As for Safe also point to a collective anger that I think is interesting and has a relationship to these films and the strategies they themselves deploy or the way they have been appropriated but I couldn't articulate here and now)

That said I don't like *hate* his films. Although I do think Far from heaven is a total waste of everyone's time its not as 'bad' as the obviously very bad velvet goldmine. Carol was fine and very pretty and I enjoyed seeing it at the time at the Ritzy in Brixton (practically empty, Christmas shopping period I think?). I loved the velvet underground documentary and could have watched a four hour version of it, though i would have enjoyed it more if I was still 16 and found the posturing of the now grown up factory people less cringe.

*That said I've been watching a lot of less canonical Sirk lately, including the noirs and historical comedies and its clear to me in a way that it wasn't before that what is commonly seen as 'Sirk' is really just a part of his overall output, which is much more varied though with certain motifs that become more striking when you see them used across a wider variety of genres (I'm thinking especially of his obsession with mirrors).

plax (ico), Friday, 24 November 2023 11:17 (four days ago) link

I don't care for Far From Heaven either. Sirk made those films that way because he reacted to the tenor, pace, look, and cultural assumptions of the 1950s; I didn't see the point in pastiching Sirk in 2002..

I mean there's a case to be made for a film that revisits the world of Sirk, but it would have to be something that tells us something new about that world, or its politics or its psyche - not just the same things repeated more slowly and enunciated more deliberately.

plax (ico), Friday, 24 November 2023 13:30 (four days ago) link

That was Fear Eats the Soul

xyzzzz__, Friday, 24 November 2023 13:35 (four days ago) link

As in a proper revisit to Sirk's world.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 24 November 2023 13:36 (four days ago) link

In one sense, and this is true of Safe also, but I meant more in response to what Alfred said about the 1950s consumer fantasy worlds of Sirk. There are definitely shades of that in Fear Eats the Soul (like the scene the tv getting kicked in) but its fundamentally about the Wirtschaftswunder and its margins rather than the horrible glare of postwar American prosperity.

plax (ico), Friday, 24 November 2023 13:49 (four days ago) link

That's why May-December works: it's the exegesis (and synthesis) of what he'd toyed with on FFH, Mildred Pierce, and Carol. The film offers his usual glassy precision but at the service of a camp approach that constantly interrogates his surfaces.

Natalie Portman is very good here, especially her spot-on (and therefore funny) imitation of Julianne Moore in her long in-character monologue towards the end. Moore has some effective moments--she's as good at Julienne Moore as Portman is--and the kids are all fine; wish the older, more acerbic daughter had shown up sooner in the film. The biggest flaw for me was big enough to be a problem: Charles Melton. He's stolid and bland most of the way--I think we're supposed to see him as having been a credible temptation for Moore 20 years earlier--but when he's called upon to actually act later in the film, I thought he fell woefully short. The film's ending, first the final encounter between Portman and Moore and then the epilogue, was intriguing.

clemenza, Sunday, 26 November 2023 02:12 (two days ago) link

Wow! His was the performance I wasn't expecting -- and he was rather hot with that dad body.

Gonna watch it today or tomorrow but, yeah, all my mutuals led me to believe it was his performance that was the movie’s stealth best

active spectator of ecocide and dispossession (Eric H.), Sunday, 26 November 2023 15:34 (two days ago) link

He plays this stunted man with finesse, and Haynes inserts him into this smoke-weed-with-his-kid sequence that's the only time in recent memory such a sequence hasn't mortified me.

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