#LFF Recommended: Carol (Todd Haynes)

CAROL_shop counter

The festival Galas are normally reserved for those titles able to balance a prestigious facture with the star power needed for red carpet glamour. The ones this year have excelled at their purpose.

Our favourite among them has to be ‘Carol’, Todd Haynes’ return to old-fashioned melodrama adapting Patricia Highsmith’s novel ‘The Price Of Salt’. The notorious thrillers writer published it under an alias, afraid perhaps of the scandal to be caused for dealing with a lesbian relationship in a positive light, defying the convictions of the 1950’s. The American director, one of the pioneers of the new queer cinema movement is back in familiar ‘Far From Heaven’ territory, after his ground-breaking Bob Dylan biopic ‘I’m Not There’ and venturing into TV mini-series with ‘Mildred Pearce’. His habitual thorough care for every aspect of his work boasts a terrific cinematography by long-time collaborator Ed Lachman, who captures classy Americana surroundings and intimate interiors; Sandy Powell’s lavish custom design encapsulating the elegance of the decade and a superb production design among other outstanding crafts.

All of which is elevated by the film’s two central performances, two of the finest you will see this year. Cate Blanchett betters herself as the high-society lady, oozing with poise and attitude to hide the inner vulnerability of a woman whose life is crumbling, trapped in a broken marriage by the threat of losing her daughter’s custody. Rooney Mara perfectly complements Blanchett as Therese, the reserved, young toy shop assistant exploring her chances to find a place in the world, uncommitted to the attentions of a number of boyfriends. When the two meet at the counter during Carol’s Christmas shopping a bond gets instantly formed, rapidly growing through a few social occasions into a passionate romance. The two leads are backed by a fine cast, among which Kyle Chandler as Carol’s jealous husband and Sarah Paulson as her intimate confident also stand up.

The beautifully observed, contained excitement of a new love affair’s first steps, as well as its erotic intimacy, add up to Carol’s remarkable achievements. Just chosen by the critics as this year’s New York Film festival’s best film, it should continue its successful path all the way to the Academy awards. ★★★★½

CAROL_head scarf walking

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