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I reread The Price of Salt over the weekend, and that party scene was one of the more revealing passages. In the novel, Therese is an aspiring theatrical set designer (rather than photographer), and her encounter is with a beautiful actress named Genevieve Cranell. They see each other at a party, their gaydar (or the 1952 equivalent) goes off, they talk, and Genevieve invites Therese to a smaller, private party upstairs. I really love this:

Therese knew suddenly that Genevieve Cranell would never mean anything to her, nothing apart from this half hour at the cocktail party, that the excitement she felt now would not continue, and not be evoked again at any other time or place. What was it that told her? Therese stared at the taut line of her blonde eyebrow as the first smoke rose from the cigarette, but the answer was not there. And suddenly a feeling of tragedy, almost of regret filled Therese. . . . Therese accepted another highball, and felt the emptiness inside her slowly filling with the realization she might see Genevieve Cranell very often, if she chose, and though she would never become entangled, might be loved herself.

The final party is the weakest moment in Carol, I think. I have to wonder if Haynes cut the scene short, either for pacing or to cover a weak performance from Brownstein. Rereading that passage helped illuminate Therese at that moment for me. Yes, she's becoming more confident and more self-actualized, but I'm not sure if the scene communicates her realization that she can be loved by other women but that she's not ready to love anyone but Carol. Rather, the scene in the film reads as, "Wow, I guess there are a lot of us around, but I'm not attracted to the butch type," echoing the earlier scene at the record store. I suspect the scene would play differently if Haynes had cast a more femme actress in Brownstein's role.

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In the theatre, that party scene was puzzling to me as well (partially due to the face recognition of Brownstein, only for the scene to fizzle out). It turns out Haynes did pare it down for length.

Quote

CUT PRINT FILM: Tying into the casting–I’m a huge Sleater-Kinney fan, so when I heard that Carrie Brownstein was involved, I was excited. And her character shows up briefly at the end [of the film], she’s sort of a little mysterious–

TODD HAYNES: She is. It was a bigger part. A bigger role. There was a little more of that in the party scene. And initially the way the script was structured, Therese lands at the party earlier in the story, and she recollects back on the story of Carol from there. So there was just more time spent in the party, and it just, it was the one thing in the cuts that we looked at — and that is a really essential process in any movie that I’ve ever made, and I think any director’s, where you show the cuts and you get reactions and you hear what’s working and what isn’t — and it was a real consensus point that it wasn’t supporting that much time, the party, and so yeah, that character unfortunately got reduced. And because it’s Carrie, it draws some attention to that, but… Also, what we didn’t want was to make too much of a causal relationship to a sort of incidental flirtation with somebody — with that being the motivating factor in her going back to Carol.

 

 

Edited by Josh Hamm

"What's prayer? It's shooting shafts in the dark." -- Frederick Buechner, Godric

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Therese lands at the party earlier in the story, and she recollects back on the story of Carol from there.

That's interesting. I guess that's why we get the shot of her alone in the bathroom, hiding from the crowd.

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Noah Millman:

But that’s not really what bugs me about their romance. What bugs me is . . . I can’t figure out who Therese has fallen in love with.

Mara gives a fully integrated, deeply felt and wholly persuasive performance as Therese, a woman raised to please who hasn’t figured out what pleases her, and who doesn’t quite know what to do with the feeling of being so powerfully drawn to Carol. But Blanchett’s performance is highly mannered, almost draggy in the degree to which, when she is with Mara, she is performing the role of glamorous femme fatale.

I am quite certain this is a deliberate choice, whether Blanchett’s or Haynes’s, both because I have seen Blanchett do so much varied work on both screen and stage that I know what kind of range she’s capable of, and also because, when she is away from Mara, her performance becomes much less mannered, much more direct and genuine. When she’s fighting with her husband, or chatting with her old friend and former lover Abby (Sarah Paulson), or going things over with her lawyer, she seems like a person. When she’s with Mara, though, she puts on this femme fatale act.

Which – again – is totally fine. People do that to attract people they are attracted to. They perform; they create a persona. It’s not even necessarily conscious. There’s something interesting to be explored about the way in which Carol finds herself boldly seducing Therese, and then pulling back from what her actions mean, and then moving forward again. That’s what attraction is like.

But is that enough to carry the story? . . .


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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He finishes with:

 

Quote

Of course, we don’t know how long the arrangement lasts. It could be a beautiful love affair that lasts a year. Carol could find Therese a comfort; Therese could learn a great deal from Carol. And then they could move on, perhaps remaining friends. But that’s hardly what we want to imagine happens after the credits run. We want to imagine something far more enduring has been forged. And, I’m sorry, but that’s not what I saw happening, and so when the credits rolled my first thought was, “is that all there is?”

 

What a stupid paragraph. He concludes with "is that all there is?" immediately after engaging in the exact speculation that any thinking viewer will enjoy after that brilliant cut to black, thereby proving "no, that's not all there is." The final smile suggests the potential for hope and love, but we've just spent 100 minutes witnessing the wreckage that this love is causing in Carol's and Therese's lives.

EDIT: My summary of this review: "Everyone told me Carol has a happy ending but it's more complicated than that. What a drag! (Get it? 'Drag.' It's a pun.)"

As for the section you quoted, Peter, yes Carol is performing for Therese--she's performing as we all do for the loves in our lives and she's also performing the kind of femininity that she sees valued by the society around her. "Drag" is exactly the right word for it. Again, that's the point. That's one of the many great tensions that complicates the film.

Edited by Darren H

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This finally arrived in my neighborhood, much to my delight.  Here's my review:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/2016/01/carol-a-gorgeous-heartbreaking-story-of-taboo-breaking-love/

This discussion has been one of the most enjoyable and enlightening on this board in a while.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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Good review, Andrew.

I mentioned this on Twitter, but thanks to Darren's praises, I saw Carol a second time, and I thought everything worked just about perfectly.


"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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Making of 'Carol': Why It Took 60 Years to Film the Lesbian Love Story

For many years, it remained an unproduced screenplay. Despite Berwin's impassioned pitches, Hollywood wasn't interested in a mainstream lesbian movie. The film might never have been produced were it not for the fact that in 2003, while writing the screenplay for the HBO movie Mrs. Harris, Nagy happened to mention the Highsmith project gathering dust in her drawer to Mrs. Harris' London-based producer, Elizabeth Karlsen. Karlsen read and loved the script and decided to make the film. There was just one problem: Berwin still held the rights. And Berwin didn't want to sell.

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On 1/26/2016 at 9:48 AM, Ryan H. said:

I haven't seen Carol yet, but I'm working my way through The Price of Salt and it is exquisite.

It really is, isn't it? I hope you get a chance to see Carol before it leaves theaters.

[embarrassed] I saw it for a sixth time last night and would go see it again today. I'm starting to think it might be my favorite film ever. [/embarrassed]

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On December 30, 2015 at 10:43 AM, Darren H said:

M, any chance I can talk you into seeing Carol again? I'm dying to talk formalism with this one! Remember our discussion of Denis's avant-garde moves? Like, the pan up to the trees in U.S. Go Home? I knew I was going to love Carol a few minutes in when, soon after the opening credits, there's that amazing, non-linear, pure-sensation shot of Blanchett (see below) cut into a montage of toy trains. Then, a few minutes later, the camera looks at Rooney through a car window at night and the image turns abstract. I keep going back to see Carol again and again because shot to shot, cut to cut, it's the most excitingly, impeccably made film I've seen in years.

Finally saw this yesterday evening, and wow, it exceeded my expectations for the film. Even setting aside all the thematic and narrative elements, I'm completely with you on the formal elements here. Those "sensation" shots, as you call them, are fantastic. The dissolves through rain-streaked windows is almost like we're peering into the very heads of the characters. It creates a sense of the subjective that's intoxicating and, for me at least, helps one enter into the central emotional life of these characters who, in other ways, are forced to communicate through obfuscation and code and a lack of language. One of my top two or three films of the year for sure. I want to watch it again and pay attention to the cuts and framing more now that I know the story.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Reviews and essays at Three Brothers Film.

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On December 30, 2015 at 10:43 AM, Darren H said:

M, any chance I can talk you into seeing Carol again? I'm dying to talk formalism with this one! Remember our discussion of Denis's avant-garde moves? Like, the pan up to the trees in U.S. Go Home? I knew I was going to love Carol a few minutes in when, soon after the opening credits, there's that amazing, non-linear, pure-sensation shot of Blanchett (see below) cut into a montage of toy trains. Then, a few minutes later, the camera looks at Rooney through a car window at night and the image turns abstract. I keep going back to see Carol again and again because shot to shot, cut to cut, it's the most excitingly, impeccably made film I've seen in years.

Finally saw this yesterday evening, and wow, it exceeded my expectations for the film. Even setting aside all the thematic and narrative elements, I'm completely with you on the formal elements here. Those "sensation" shots, as you call them, are fantastic. The dissolves through rain-streaked windows is almost like we're peering into the very heads of the characters. It creates a sense of the subjective that's intoxicating and, for me at least, helps one enter into the central emotional life of these characters who, in other ways, are forced to communicate through obfuscation and code and a lack of language. One of my top two or three films of the year for sure. I want to watch it again and pay attention to the cuts and framing more now that I know the story.

Really the first film that comes to mind as a point of comparison is IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

Twitter.
Letterboxd.

Reviews and essays at Three Brothers Film.

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On 2/14/2016 at 3:43 PM, Anders said:

Really the first film that comes to mind as a point of comparison is IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE.

Totally. I rented this on Amazon this afternoon and gave it a watch. Add my voice to the chorus of praises--this is really a lovely, lovely movie. I don't know that I can add much to the appreciations already offered here, but there were several moments where I quite literally gasped.

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It was extremely unlikely that any film could have been as satisfying as the film I imagined in my head as I read The Price of Salt, and Carol wasn't up to the challenge.

My biggest complaint lies with Carter Burwell's dreary score, which saps all the energy and passion out of every scene in which it appears.

 

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I went looking for a Carol thread, completely forgetting that I'd already posted more than a dozen times about the film!

Four years later, I'm still completely enamored with Carol. I taught it in my intro to film criticism class last fall, including a shot-by-shot breakdown of the opening seven minutes, and the experience only heightened my love it. I'm happy to jump back into a discussion if anyone else is game. For now, I'll just say that I nominated the film for the top 100 for three main reasons (along with wanting to have more queer representation).

The first is probably the least important, which is simply that I've never felt such a deep and mysterious connection to any film. Maybe the closest experience I've had with another work of art was when I first read Angels in America. I'm still pondering the queer connection between the two. I don't doubt I'm straight but there's something in queer identity that speaks deeply to me. Sometimes I think it's related to something closet-y about my faith when I was growing up.

Second, a key theme that emerged as I was putting together my top 25 was a vague notion of "personhood," of what it means to be human. One of my deep fascinations with Carol is that at the center is Cate Blanchett (who has always had a Joan Crawford-like, slippery gender dynamic) performing the role of a queer woman, who is herself performing the role of an ideal housewife. Rooney Mara (who often plays queer characters) is likewise playing Therese as a queer woman desperate to find an identity to model. And the experience is breaking them both. This subect came up earlier in the thread, but there's a useful sense of drag throughout this film that feels essential to me. Like, trying on the clothes of another identity, shifting from one performance to another in hopes of finding a more natural fit -- somehow that embodies an innate spiritual desire in all of us.

Finally, on the first page of this thread, I try to make the case that Carol interrogates many of our standard binary categories. The power imbalances we recognize between Carol and Therese and that can make us uncomfortable at first, can also be reciprocal and healing (to borrow language Peter helpfully introduced to the discussion). Not to put too fine a point on it, but my spiritual journey over the past decade has often been a process of disassembling the binary world I was raised in and stumbling toward a new faith appropriate for my more unsettled (beautifully!) worldview. No idea if that makes sense.

Edited by Darren H

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46 minutes ago, Darren H said:

I taught it in my intro to film criticism class last fall, including a shot-by-shot breakdown of the opening seven minutes

If you have a video or slide presentation or some way to present this breakdown without a ton of extra work for you, I'd love to see it! I also love the film and consider it my favorite LGBT-themed film of the last decade (edging out Moonlight and Weekend).

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I can't find the final version of the file, but here's the first 16 shots. I gave the students a blank version of this spreadsheet and then asked them to pick any film they love and break down a sequence of at least 20 shots. The second part of the assignment was to turn it into a 750-word formal analysis.

cnst400-shots-carol.xlsx

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