TODD HAYNES is back with Far from Heaven, a magnificent 19505- style melodrama.
V‘Jrircis: Tom Dawson
fter all the tribulations of
bringing his glam-rock epic
l’elve! (in/(linine to the screen. American writer-director 'l'odd Haynes vowed not to touch another film for years. But having been personally and creatively rev'italised by moving from New York (‘ity to Portland. Oregon. he now returns with the magnificent. Oscar-nominated lite/mm Heuven. a ravishingly shot homage to the 1950s maternal melodramas of Douglas Sirk.
lt‘s written specifically for Julianne Moore tthe lead in llaynes' earlier Safe) who plays the suburban mother and housewife (‘athyu Discovering her husband l‘rank (Dennis Quaid) is attracted to men. she seeks solace in a friendship with her black gardener Raymond (Dennis Haysbertl. only to become ostracised by her own middle-class community.
Avoiding cynical irony or facile nostalgia. Haynes has crafted a sincere and deeply moving drama. rich in contemporary parallels. which illustrates how a society"s norms and conventions thwart an individual’s desires. And as with Sirk. style and content in l'tll'jlYHII Heaven are inextricably linked. The ltish 'l'echnicolor palette. the expressionistic lighting scheme. the graceful camera movements and the romantic lilmer Bernstein score express the very feelings and needs that the characters themselves cannot articulate. We the viewers are simultaneously distanced by the artifice and immersed in the emotional dilemmas of the protagonists.
So why did Haynes decide to step back into the past and make the film in the style and the spirit of Sirk'.’ 'Because Sirk's work is about an entire world of ideas. and a richness of cinematic language and style and care that have so gone away.‘ enthuses the boyish-looking 41-year-old. speaking from his publicist's office in London. ‘I wanted l-itrfrmn Heaven to be an antidote to the emotionally guarded "cool" of our contemporary life. Young people are not supposed to feel strongly about things. like their parents did in the 1960s. It's a cliche to be passionate about politics or about a rock star. That's a shame and it‘s dangerous and it's sad. And have we progressed much further than the Wills”? Today’s political climate makes that decade look like a rehearsal for where we are now.‘
l'nlike Sirk. Haynes was able to be tnore explicit in his treatment of racism and homosexuality. showing. for example. Frank kissing a man and visiting a gay bar. or an extended sequence in which Cathy spends time in Raymond's black neighbourhood. For Haynes. however. the power of the film lies in its restraint. ‘Take the scene where Frank curses at his wife.‘ he says. ‘To make a curse word that we hear in movies ad natiseam. and to have it be a real shocking blow in a movie like this.
20 THE LIST Fob—'3 Ma'
‘I wanted it to be an antidote to the emotionally guarded smiles “an... in m. cool of our contemporary life’
Imitation 0 life
shows how much more you gain by reduction than by trying to out-blast and out-sex and out-violence the last example of sliock-v'altie.'
As with l’elvel (hilt/mine. [air from Heaven performed badly at its initial test-screenings across the Atlantic. People said it was too artificial. but the ending was realistic. that it was a film they could take their mothers to. bill that it vv as
course it's all those things.'
combination of them that makes them interesting. and the fact you can experience all of it in a new way. And anyway. some of the most notoriously well-tested films have flopped when released and v ice-v'ersa.‘
Now the filmmaker is back in Portland at work on his next project. a feature about Bob Dylan. Of course.
given that it's Haynes directing. it’s not going to be your standard music biopic. 'l've got this weird idea of
having a series of characters whose stories will be told simultaneoust with different historical settings] he says. ‘.\'one of them will look like or be Bob Dylan. but they'll stand in for different aspects of his career. Dylan has even given Us the rights to his music. which I don't think he’s ever done before.’
So. are the times a changing. or a changing back‘.’
Far From Heaven is on general release from Fri 7 Mar. See review, page 21.
also an art-house movie. ‘()f
Lights. camera. act/0n .
Made in Britain, at the Cameo
MADE IN RITAIN, Conceived in Scotland. That's the season of British films organised by the Cameo cinema's film-literate and loving staff. Chosen as a rebuff to anodyne Hollywood movies. next up in the ongoing season is Peter Watkins' radical revisionist account of the infamous Scottish battle, Culloden (4 March). Guest speakers are planned for each screening, and among those to be confirmed are Ewen Bremner for Ratcatcher (April 8) and Alasdair Gray for A Matter of Life and Death. For full details of the season call the Cameo on 0131 228 2800 or check the website: www.cameocinema.co.uk