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Sunday, January 17, 2016

THE PRICE OF SALT -- Carol is postwar glamour incarnate -- played with Brancusi-countoured Blanchett.

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From left, Cory Michael Smith, Cate Blanchett, and Rooney Mara in “Carol,” a Todd Haynes film based on a 1952 Patricia Highsmith novel. 












Mutual attraction may be central to our notion of love.

But it is a curiously rare occurrence in art, which tends to split desire into subject and object.

Poetry traces a vector from lover to beloved. (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”)

In painting and sculpture, the eye of the beholder lingers on the face and body of the beheld.

Students of film are schooled in the erotic power of the gaze, and readers of romance fiction know the seductions of the first-person narrative and the free indirect style, which concentrate lust and longing within a single consciousness. (“Reader, I married him.”)


Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel, “The Price of Salt,” published under the pseudonym Claire Morgan, uses these conventional methods to tell the story of what was at the time a scandalously unconventional love.

That story, which begins in New York just before Christmas, is related from the perspective of Teresa Belivet, a theatrical set designer in New York who falls for a Connecticut woman named Carol Aird.

Therese’s infatuation with Carol is immediate and total.

Carol’s feelings, while equally intense, are more elusive, partly because the reader experiences them at second hand, from Teresa’s point of view.


Continue reading the main storyVideo

Anatomy of a Scene | ‘Carol'

Todd Haynes narrates a sequence from his film featuring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.
 By MEKADO MURPHY on Publish DateNovember 19, 2015. Photo by Wilson Webb/The Weinstein Company.Watch in Times Video »

In bringing this book to the screen in his gorgeous new movie “Carol,”Todd Haynes has, as filmmakers will, changed a few details, characters and plot points. (Therese is now an aspiring photographer, though still temporarily employed at the doll counter of a department store.) But Mr. Haynes and the screenwriter, Phyllis Nagy, have also done something more radical. In Highsmith’s prose, desire is a one-way street. For Mr. Haynes, it’s a two-way mirror. At once ardent and analytical, cerebral and swooning, “Carol” is a study in human magnetism, in the physics and optics of eros. With sparse dialogue and restrained drama, the film is a symphony of angles and glances, of colors and shadows. It gives emotional and philosophical weight



In bringing Highsmith's "The price of salt" to the screen in his gorgeous new movie “Carol,”Todd Haynes has, as filmmakers will, changed a few details, characters and plot points. 

Teresa is now an aspiring photographer, though still temporarily employed at the doll counter of a department store.

But Haynes and the screenwriter, Phyllis Nagy, have also done something more radical. 

In Highsmith’s prose, desire is a one-way street. 

For Mr. Haynes, it’s a two-way mirror. 

At once ardent and analytical, cerebral and swooning, “Carol” is a study in human magnetism, in the physics and optics of eros. 

With sparse dialogue and restrained drama, the film is a symphony of angles and glances, of colors and shadows. 

It gives emotional and philosophical weight to what might be a perfectly banal question.

What do these women see each in each other?
And when other people look at Carol and Teresa (or through them or past them), what do they see?

In the opening scene — which establishes most of what follows as a flashback — we accompany an anonymous, hat-and-coated fellow into a hotel bar, where he spots the two women (played byCate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) at a nearby table.

The meaning of their togetherness is invisible to this guy (he’s an acquaintance of Teresa's) and, for the moment, opaque to us.

Later, when the scene is repeated with the camera in a different position, the current of feeling passing between Carol and Teresa as they chat over their tea-cups is so strong that the air around them seems to vibrate.
By then, we are in on their secret, and accustomed to seeing them, in public places, hidden in plain sight, cloaked in unspoken assumptions that are at once painful and protective.

We also know the extent of their intimacy, since we’ve watched it blossom from a chance encounter and a series of cautious conversations into a headlong, heedless affair.

In this film’s version of the 1950s, nobody necessarily suspects that two women out for coffee or cocktails or a drive in the country might in fact be lovers.


There is plenty of melodrama, though, and more than a touch of film noir. 


“Carol” filters a relatively happy romance through layers of anxiety, dread and psychological suspense. 

Haynes, a scholar of mid- and late-20th-century cinematic styles and sexual attitudes, is both a connoisseur and a theorist of female suffering. 

In early shorts like “Superstar” and “Dottie Gets Spanked” as well as in mature features like “Safe,” “Far From Heaven” and “Mildred Pierce,” his attention has often gravitated toward women in danger and in distress.

When such suspicion does arise, the consequences can be unfathomably cruel.

Shame, exposure and ostracism lurk in every stranger’s glance.


A rumor can ruin a life. Terror hovers in the air along with yearning, but  Haynes honours Highsmith’s decision to tell a tale of same-sex love stripped of pathology or tragedy.
At first glance, the distraught diva in this picture can only be Carol, who is played with almost metaphysical movie-star blondness by Blanchett.

Arrayed in full-cut coats and accessorized in bright, saturated colours — an early shot lingers over the pulsating orange hues of her fingernails, her scarf and her hat — Carol is postwar glamour incarnate.


Continue reading the main storyVideo

Movie Review: ‘Carol’

The Times critic A. O. Scott reviews “Carol.”
 By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER and ROBIN LINDSAY on Publish DateNovember 20, 2015. Photo by Wilson Webb/The Weinstein Company. Watch in Times Video »

The camera — Therese’s camera as well as Mr. Haynes’s — searches out the pain and wisdom behind the Brancusi contours of Ms. Blanchett’s face. Carol is richer and more experienced than Therese, and also more weighed down by compromises and responsibilities. Carol, in the middle of divorcin




The camera — Therese’s camera as well as Mr. Haynes’s — searches out the pain and wisdom behind the Brancusi contours of Blanchett’s face. 

Carol is rich and more experienced than Teresa, and also more weighed down by compromises and responsibilities. 

Carol, in the middle of divorcing her bewildered husband, Harge (Kyle Chandler), has a daughter and what used to be called a past. 

A sexual relationship with a friend named Abby (Sarah Paulson) contributed to the breakup of her marriage, and Carol’s romance with Teresa adds further complication at a tricky time in her life.
Not that Teresa's situation is all that simple.

A nice guy named Richard (Jake Lacy), who calls her "Terry", wants to marry her, or at least take her to Europe.

Another nice guy, Dannie (John Magaro), also has his eye on her.

She is patient with them, as Carol tries to be with Harge, and they are puzzled by her lack of interest.

Carol lights up Teresa's world with her elegance and self-possession, her dazzling and mysterious allure.

But Teresa has mysteries of her own.

Carol (in a line taken directly from the book) likens her to an alien, a creature “flung from space,” and Mara’s face has a spooky, otherworldly quality.

Dressed in mismatched plaids, including a dumpy yellow tam-o’-shanter — a notable contrast to Carol’s compact and deep-hued pillbox hats — Teresa can look elfin and childlike.

It’s hard to tell whether her quiet manner bespeaks timidity or terrifying self-possession.
There are obvious asymmetries to be discovered in the relationship between a penniless bohemian and a wealthy, matron, but Mara refuses to be the ingénue in the arrangement.

She is vulnerable and hungry, timid and ferocious, predator and prey. 

And the movie, with its gauzy, grainy images (shot by the incomparable Edward Lachman), ultimately depends on the clarity of Teresa's vision, on her ability to discover who she is and to choose a course of action that expresses that identity.
“Carol,” like virtually every other movie Haynes has directed, is a period film, almost fetishistically precise in its recreation of the look and sound of the past.

Like other historical fiction, it measures the distance between then and now.

In 1952, the candid and sympathetic depiction of gay life was shocking.

Now it is commonplace.

“Carol” might have been content to be an archaeology of the closet, or a pitying backward glance at the mores of a less enlightened time.
But it is much more than that.

Haynes is a historian of feelings, of the unspoken and invisible traces of the libido.

In one scene, Carol helps Teresa apply perfume, instructing her to spray it only on her pulse points, where the heat and movement of her blood will activate the scent.

The images in “Carol” are cool and elusive, but they also pulsate with life.
 Sweet, Fraught Science of Magnetism.

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