53. “Safe”, Todd Haynes (1995)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

Safe

Safe

dir. Todd Haynes scr. Todd Haynes cin. Alex Nepomniaschy with Julianne Moore, Peter Friedman, Xander Berkeley, Susan Norman.

In 100 words: What is wrong with Carol? This postmodern masterpiece never specifies the culprit, but through its masterful blending of horror and melodrama, suggests that modern life is killing her. Haynes’ script reveals the direness of a life built on superficial ideas about domesticity and perfection, while Moore’s performance builds a character who is primarily an empty shell and slowly shows her growing into herself as she starts to shut out the world. The excellent sound heightens the dread in everyday mundanity, while the camera frames her in ways that suggests the world is swallowing her. Great ideas, unnerving execution, enigmatic end.

Other Movies for Context: This isn’t the first film that explores the utter desolation of the modern world, and it feels partly inspired by the works of Chantal Akerman and Michaelangelo Antonioni’s examination of the horrors of the industrial age, Red Desert (1964). Personally, this movie makes me think of the odd, experimental, and enigmatic Koyaanisqatsi (1982), which builds a narrative from human life in the modern age.

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73. “Carol”, Todd Haynes (2015)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

Carol

Carol

dir. Todd Haynes (2015) scr. Phyllis Nagy cin. Edward Lachmann with Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, and Sarah Paulson

In 100 words: Everything about Carol gleams with perfection: the costumes, the set design, Lachmann’s immaculate photography, Haynes’ colors and framing, and the dreamy score ache with passion fit for a movie all about two characters, divided by age, class, and circumstance, falling unexpectedly in love. But what captivates me is the film’s focus on each character’s body language and the way they communicate love and desire without the use of words, certainly the definition of “show, not tell.” Not to mention it offers a striking discourse on sexuality, sexism, and 50s American culture that few films have ever as successfully explored. Swoon.

Other Movies for Context: Haynes is such an amazing director, who is influenced by the likes of Douglas Sirk and Rainer Fassbinder. Certainly, his film Far From Heaven (2002) is most similar to this movie, in tone, subject matter, and look (courtesy of the same cinematographer). Brief Encounter (1946), David Lean’s romance (which shows up later on this list) has a similar structure that provides the same emotional dividends that this movie gives.