I knew nothing about this before going into a restored screening. It's amazing how you could feel the reaction change in the audience from laughing at dolls to being genuinely invested in this tragic story. So unexpectedly emotional but with a dark sense of irony and humor. Hopefully one day the restoration can be made publicly available.
"at first i thought it was a joke & then i thought it was deadly serious" - a youtube comment i agree with, & am glad that i do. the fear of using barbie dolls in a tale of anorexia taking someone's life - you hope it's not akin to a bad robot chicken sketch. & it wasn't of course. by then end it seemed more appropriate than using actual actors.
It finally occurred to me that I could just go find this on YouTube and thwart Richard Carpenter's cease-and-desist ruling. The version I saw was super grainy but the central conceit works amazingly well and I was suprisingly moved by the end of this brief but absorbing film.The sound collage of Karen's voice on several Carpenters tracks that appears a few times was remarkably haunting.
Todd Haynes' brilliant debut. Really a feature film, I saw it as such in a real movie theater when it came out. It is Haynes' best film. Richard Carpenter sued Haynes and all copies are supposed to be destroyed, except for the copy at MOMA, which they have promised NEVER TO SHOW! As of this writing it is on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rACJWPd3VnI&list=PLFA2E8199C6C1EA8B&index=64
A film that should be laughable turns out to be genuinely moving and disturbing. Hell, even the Carpenters' music turns out to be moving (and disturbing). The Barbie dolls make a great symbol for both the "plasticness" of the culture the Carpenters came to represent and for the plasticity of Karen Carpenter herself. Of course in this film, she's a symbol that Todd Haynes manipulates for his own ends. Hmmmm...
She was the Christiane F. of Downey, California; the Republican Party's Lady Day. Oddly, Todd Haynes' Barbie doll Karen gave us more insight into feminine repression and the myth of perfectionism American-style, than any role I can remember since Kim Stanley's turn in The Goddess. I kept hoping Sonic Youth would back her up in Superstar, but the fates are cruel.