So, Far From Heaven. It's the most beautiful evocation of 1950s melodrama, in particular the films of Douglas Sirk, which, I now know, typically starred Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson and were about 'forbidden love' across the class divide.
|Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson in 1955's All That Heaven Allows|
|Haynes' swatch for the party scene|
Set in Hartford, Connecticut in 1957, it's the story of Kathy and Frank Whitaker, who are, to all appearances, the perfect American couple. He's an executive in a television sales company and she stays at home with her two lovely children and her black maid (Mad Men must surely have been heavily influenced by the look and feel of this film, which predates Mad Men, having been released in 2002. Another film influenced by it is, I think, Revolutionary Road, 2008). I'm absolutely not going to give away the plot because it depends on an element of surprise and is really engrossing. Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid are perfect as this all-American couple who start to see cracks appearing in their dream existence.
The use of colour was most startling in the costumes, and I felt that Haynes had made the costumes chime so strongly with each other in order to push home the sense of absolute conformity in American society at that period. Here are Kathy Whitaker and her friends, no doubt all wearing 'this Fall's must-have shades':
|so much green conformity, it put me in mind of the Emerald City (which may be a deliberate reference)|
|the lilac scarf is almost the same colour as the sky, reinforcing the idea that it symbolises freedom|
Since 'discovering' Todd Haynes (about twenty years after everybody else), I've watched his first movie (made at film school), Superstar, in chunks on YouTube. It's a biopic of Karen Carpenter done with a variety of mixed media, but all the actors are played by Barbie and Ken dolls:
|Karen Carpenter sings...|
|The grown-ups accuse Stevie of murder|
Now I've ordered two other Haynes features from Amazon, Velvet Goldmine and [Safe], and no doubt these will be spending a couple of years on the 'to be watched' pile before I get round to them -- or perhaps they'll jump straight to the top. Todd Haynes is definitely my new favourite film director.