Todd Haynes

Assassins: A Film Concerning Rimbaud 44
[ Reverse engineering all the way – i.e., if I’d actually seen this in 1985, I would probably have dismissed it outright as a pretentious, self-indulgent film school wank, with uneven performances and production values (that fake beard!). But watching it 23 years later, with Todd Haynes firmly established as an auteur, this proves somewhat revelatory, notably in regard to the shots of Rimbaud in front of a white background, talking to the camera, which are almost exact blueprints of what would become one of the threads of “I’m Not There.” Another interesting, if random touch is the anachronistic use of Iggy Pop songs, especially as it’s the exact same two numbers Danny Boyle would later put on the “Trainspotting” soundtrack (Lust for Life and Nightclubbing). ]

Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story 71
[ Whoa, this is seriously fucked up! Shot on the cheap with Barbie dolls re-enacting the real-life tragic story of the Carpenters singer’s battle with anorexia, the movie strangely but effectively blends wholesome pop music, melodramatic documentary narration and Cronenberg-style creepiness. And did I mention that all the characters are played by Barbie dolls? ]


Dottie Gets Spanked 67
[ The archness of the 1950s setting and the gay thematic elements foretell “Far From Heaven” but, unlike the Rimbaud pic, this one works even when not taking auteurism into consideration. As with “Superstar”, I was oddly moved by this wholly artificial yarn, which depicts an effeminate 6 year old’s fondness for an “I Love Lucy”-style sitcom and his startling discovery of spanking. ]

Safe 85
[ Working less like a disease-movie-of-the-week than like an all-out horror movie in which every day “fumes” and chemicals act as the monster waiting around every corner, the first half of Todd Haynes’ film is truly creepy. The use of cheesy ‘80s pop is slightly distracting and the husband character is one-dimensionally non-understanding, but Julianne Moore gives a stripped down, understated but powerful performance, and the exploration of environmental illness is terrifying and thought-provoking. What I’m really not sure about “Safe” is how midway through it hands itself to a self-help guru who attempts to help Moore not only with her health but with her spirit. Haynes has said that his film’s values run counter to those encouraged in the story, but that distinction isn’t clear on screen. Still, that’s a nitpick about an otherwise stunning picture. ]

Velvet Goldmine

Far From Heaven 79
[ review ]

I’m Not There. 92
[ Bob Dylan is a man of mystery, contradiction, chaos, clocks and watermelons, and “I’m Not There.” is built in his image. Part conventional biopic (rise to fame, failed marriage, drug addiction, etc.), part fake documentary (with talking heads segments, including some with Julianne Moore as a Joan Baez type), part 1960s art film (B&W, psychedelic imagery), part post-modern exercise (interweaved narratives, different actors playing the same character), part mad-circus Western (no, really!), Todd Haynes’s latest is infinitely challenging and equally rewarding. On first viewing, some stretches feel somewhat self-indulgent, while still being interesting in their own way, but there’s no question that much more numerous are the masterstrokes (the Beatles “cameo”, the New England Jazz and Folk Festival massacre, David Cross as Allen Ginsberg…). As word had it, Cate Blanchett is the best of the six actors playing the various versions of Dylan, but I also loved the takes by Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, little black kid Marcus Carl Franklin and even Richard Gere. But the real star here remains Haynes, who proves once again to be an unbelievably versatile virtuoso. “I’m Not There.” is a goddamn master class in cinema, always visually enthralling and packing a genius soundtrack, of course. This is everything the Lucien Francoeur flick “Exit pour Nomades” (look it up) wanted to be, and then some. ]

Carol 68
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]