Lesbian love in midcentury NYC
by Roberto Friedman
Lesbian crime novelist Patricia Highsmith 's chilly, psychologically complex works have long appealed to filmmakers. Her Tom Ripley novels have inspired such different directors Wim Wenders and Anthony Minghella , while Strangers on a Train went right to the genius of Alfred Hitchcock. But only now has her single lesbian love novel, The Price of Salt (1952), come to the big screen. Director Todd Haynes ' film adaptation Carol (written by Phyllis Nagy) opens this Friday in Bay Area moviehouses.
Highsmith biographer Joan Schenkar (The Talented Miss Highsmith) shared some of the back-story in a New York Times piece last week. "She was writing a novel of lacerating self-exposure and lesbian love in an era with little tolerance for either," writes Schenkar. So fearless in many facets of her life, Highsmith shrunk away from the gay-liberationist implications of her second novel. She was "so shamed by her subject that she published the novel under a pseudonym (Claire Morgan); dedicated it, with exquisite misdirection, to three people who didn't exist (Edna , Jordy and Jeff); left the country before it went on sale; and refused to acknowledge her authorship for 40 years."
Here's a plot synopsis from press materials, to whet the appetite: "Carol follows two women from different backgrounds who find themselves in an unexpected love affair in 1950s New York. As conventional norms of the time challenge their undeniable attraction, an honest story emerges to reveal the resilience of the heart in the face of change. A young woman in her 20s, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is a clerk working in a Manhattan department store and dreaming of a more fulfilling life when she meets Carol (Cate Blanchett ), an alluring woman trapped in a loveless marriage. As an immediate connection sparks between them, the innocence of their first encounter dims and their connection deepens. While Carol breaks free from the confines of marriage, her husband (Kyle Chandler ) begins to question her competence as a mother as her involvement with Therese and close relationship with her best friend Abby (Sarah Paulson) come to light." Here's Out There's suggested tag-line, which we offer the distributor for free: "Like sands through the hourglass, these are the Days of Our Lesbian Lives." Coming to the Embarcadero Cinemas and other Bay Area theaters.
So much is opening this week that appeals to OT's moviegoing appetite. Again from promotional press materials: "The Forbidden Room is Guy Maddin's ultimate epic phantasmagoria. Honoring classic cinema while electrocuting it with energy, this Russian nesting doll of a film begins (after a prologue on how to take a bath) with the crew of a doomed submarine chewing flapjacks in a desperate attempt to breathe the oxygen within. Suddenly, impossibly, a lost woodsman wanders into their company and tells his tale of escaping from a fearsome clan of cave-dwellers. From here, Maddin and co-director Evan Johnson take us high into the air, around the world, and into dreamscapes, spinning tales of amnesia, captivity, deception and murder, skeleton women and vampire bananas. Playing like some glorious meeting between Italo Calvino, Sergei Eisenstein and a perverted six-year-old child, The Forbidden Room is Maddin's grand ode to lost cinema. Created with the help of master poet John Ashbery, the film features Mathieu Amalric, Udo Kier, Charlotte Rampling, Geraldine Chaplin, Roy Dupuis, Clara Furey, Louis Negin, Maria de Medeiros, Jacques Nolot, Adele Haenel, Amira Casar and Elina Lowensohn as a cavalcade of misfits, thieves and lovers, all joined in the joyful delirium of the kaleidoscopic viewing experience." Plays Fri., Nov. 27-Thurs., Dec. 3, at the Roxie Theatre in SF. On Sat., Nov. 28, Maddin will appear via Skype in conversation with Roxie executive director Dave Cowen . The exact time is TBA.