CAROL, part one
To conclude this series of Pride 2017-related posts (though certainly not the end of gay-relevant content on this blog), here’s a two-part post on Todd Haynes’s exquisite 1950s-set lesbian romance Carol (2015). Last year, Carol was voted the best LGBT film of all time in a poll that featured over 100 critics and was compiled to mark the 30th anniversary of London’s lesbian and gay film festival, BFI Flare. There are many qualities worth celebrating in this film: the sublimely modulated lead performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, the richly atmospheric period detail and mise-en-scène, Haynes’s deft invocations of classical Hollywood genres (melodrama, film noir, women’s pictures). But most importantly, as the following quote reminds us, Carol’s uncommonly uplifting and affirmative take on same-sex love represents a quietly radical step forward for LGBT narratives in cinema.
“In the years since Brokeback Mountain, we’ve seen Best Picture nominations for The Kids Are All Right and Dallas Buyers Club – though in both of those cases, the primary audience surrogate was arguably a straight man (Mark Ruffalo in Kids, Matthew McConaughey in Dallas) – and the slightly Sapphic Black Swan. And, of course, there was Milk and The Imitation Game, both stories about gay men who met with tragedy… Spoiler alert: Carol’s protagonists fall in love, consummate their passion, and encounter some difficulties – it’s the early ‘50s, after all – but do not die for/from being gay. Such a declaration sounds stark, but an astonishing number of films about gay life have seen their characters come to some sort of a tragic end, as if comporting to the old Hays Code, where characters must be “punished” for their “sins.” Ultimately, Carol’s most transgressive quality is its refusal to engage in such shenanigans; this is a film about full-blooded gay lives, not tragic gay deaths. Maybe Oscar voters weren’t sure how to deal with that?” — Jason Bailey, Flavorwire (January 2016)