Safe
5 out of 5 starsSHADOWS MUST SEE MUST-SEE
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
safe Before Far From Heaven, Julianne Moore and Todd Haynes collaborated on this urban fable with serious thriller overtones. Stylish, unsettling and deeply provocative, this is brilliant filmmaking on every level, destined to become an American classic. Carol and Greg (Moore and Berleley) are the perfect suburban couple with a brand new sprawling house in the Valley, a bright son (Leopardi) and a close circle of friends. But the new house is so big that Carol begins to feel alienated and alone, developing an allergy to her surroundings. Eventually, she diagnoses herself as suffering from "environmental illness" and takes preventive measures that eventually lead her to an isolated community outside Albuquerque, where she can escape the fumes of modern life.

Haynes films this as if it's a futuristic Kubrickian epic--expansive camerawork and clever lighting combine with careful framing to both keep us arm's length and suck us into the insidious horror of it all. Our point of entry here is Moore's translucent, fragile, unspeakably raw performance. We feel for her, even as we doubt the reality of her disease (parallels to ME and Aids are obvious) and suspect her "cure" in this rather creepy cult-like community. Intriguingly, Haynes sets the film in the past (1987) and then plays it like a cautionary sci-fi thriller. We vividly feel Carol's symptoms, we know what it's like to hear incessant traffic noise, to breathe mysterious fumes, to feel something no one accepts as real. This isn't just urban paranoia, it's a reaction to progress and technology that has taken over our lives. And has Haynes draws out themes about facing up and tolerating things we don't understand, the film is both gripping and very scary indeed. As one character says: "You've got to discover the maximum amount of toxins your body can cope with." Astonishing.

cert 15 adult themes, language 20.Feb.03

dir-scr Todd Haynes
with Julianne Moore, Xander Berkeley, Peter Friedman, Kate McGregor-Stewart, James LeGros, Brandon Cruz, Chauncey Leopardi, Susan Norman, Mary Carver, Martha Velez-Johnson, Jessica Harper, Beth Grant
Sony
95/US 1h59

Trouble. Carol (Moore) gets some help from her confused friends...

moore haynes

Rich Cline & Todd Haynes: INTERVIEW
Haynes & Moore:
FAR FROM HEAVEN

back to the top SUPERSTAR, The Karen Carpenter Story
Barbie Karen and Ken Richard
dir Todd Haynes; scr Todd Haynes, Cynthia Schneider; voices Rob LaBelle, Gwen Kraus, Bruce Tuthill 87/US 43m 4 out of 5 stars
For a gimmicky 43-minute biopic, this film manages to say more than most big-budget features. Haynes directed and cowrote this as part of his MFA film degree, then it took on a life of its own, for obvious reasons. Despite the fact that it features a cast of Barbie dolls, the film is directed like a real movie, with insightful camera work and an astonishingly revealing script that somehow manages to combine high camp with moving tragedy, exactly like Karen Carpenter's real life and legacy. You giggle at the silliness of it all--it plays like a parody of a documentary about anorexia, centring on Carpenter and her family. Then it becomes so overwhelmingly moving that the laughter starts catching in the back of your throat. Haynes makes brilliant use of the Carpenters' music throughout, as well as other period hits, each one subverting the stereotype to tell us something new. And he pulls no punches at all in his depiction of anorexia, right down to the degrading of Karen's "body". No wonder people snapped to attention when this film started leaking out. And as it takes a honest look at the roots of anorexia in Carpenter's close-knit family life, it's no wonder that Karen's brother Richard has put an injunction on the film to keep it from being shown commercially. Thankfully, you can still find it at museums and festivals, as well as on bootleg video websites. It's a must-see that puts most other film bios to shame. [adult themes, language] 11.Mar.03
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... superstar ajmal, net: 4.5/5 "Superstar a remarkable film from many aspects, including the fact that it features Barbie & Ken dolls. despite the lack of budget, the film is brilliantly directed, and grabs you from the first frame of the pre-credits B/W grainy footage. the eerie score only adds to the creepy visuals. the script is finely layered with subtext, nuance, and intelligence. for a low-budget short film with plastic dolls in the cast, this is a very moving and thought-provoking film, bizarre yet oddly affecting. i have to see more of Haynes's work now." (11.Aug.06)
2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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