Todd Haynes’s risky film is one of the great movies of the 1990s, and features the outstanding Julianne Moore, in her first lead, in a role (and performance) that anticipates her Oscar-nominated turn in the director’s Far From Heaven. A work of startling formal control and unnerving detachment, Safe captured the zeitgeist (and malaise) of late-20th-century urban North America with an eerie, austere precision. Moore plays affluent but afflicted Southern California housewife Carol, a woman “allergic to the 20th century” — hypersensitive, it seems, to the fumes, toxins, and chemical irritants we breathe in each second. What Carol’s really allergic to, of course, may be something else again. Bad cologne? Or the benumbing emotional sterility and intellectual vapidity of contemporary corporate/consumerist culture? Haynes renders Carol’s predicament in stark, elegant compositions, making Antonioni-like use of long shots and décor to convey her alienation. He then whisks her off to New Mexico for rehab at a New Agey healing centre, sketched with a satire of great subtleness and restraint. “Daring ... hypnotic ... Moore, in a nearly unplayable role, is amazingly vivid and touching; this is a heartbreaking portrait of a woman in full, panicked retreat from life” (Terrence Rafferty, The New Yorker). Colour, format TBA. 118 mins.
Dottie Gets Spanked
USA 1993. Director: Todd Haynes
Cast: Evan Bonifant, Barbara Garrick, Julie Halston, Robert Pall, Harriet Harris
Made between Poison and Safe, Todd Haynes’s rarely-screened half-hour drama is set in suburban New York in 1966, and concerns an imaginative 6-year-old boy whose obsession with the zany heroine of a popular TV sitcom (the fictitious “The Dottie Frank Show”) is a harbinger of his emergent sexual identity. “Based on Haynes’s childhood infatuation with ‘The Lucy Show’ and his own obsessive drawings, the film takes hilarious liberties with cinematic narrative and the psychoanalytic wellspring of sexuality” (Toronto I.F.F.). Colour and B&W, 16mm. 27 mins.
"You'd have to be cranky or blind to deny Haynes' artistry and vision. There's a dark power, a tremor that runs through the movie like the rumble of a secret dread."Chicago Tribune | full review
"The ironic handling of decor and characterisation builds an eerie portrait of the blissed-out West Coast bourgeoisie at their most brainwashed."Time Out | full review