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Todd Haynes @ 50

One of the more intriguing projects we have to look forward to this year is Todd Haynes's Mildred Pierce, a five-part miniseries airing on HBO in March and featuring Kate Winslet. Michael Curtiz's 1945 Mildred is a "gleaming classic of female trouble, and timelessly potent brew of noir and melodrama," notes the Guardian's Danny Leigh, adding that "Haynes's Mildred isn't a remake but rather... an enlargening and expansion that promises to draw on his own ideas, Curtiz's original and James M Cain's beautifully precise source novel." The BFI's reminder that Haynes turns 50 today makes for a fine opportunity to look back on the oeuvre however briefly or deeply you care to.

You could begin, of course, by watching Haynes's magnificent first film, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987), in full. Next, you might revisit November's roundup on Poison (1991), the occasion being its restoration and re-release on the film's 20th anniversary. Six years ago, Zeitgeist released a DVD featuring Dottie Gets Spanked (1993) and Mary Hestand's Haynes-produced short He Was Once (1989); Daniel Mudie Cunningham reviewed the package for PopMatters.

"Todd Haynes's enviro-disease masterpiece Safe might just be the most terrifying film of the last decade," suggested Sal Cinquemani in Slant in 2002. "There are no monsters or homicidal maniacs here — instead, the film's horror emanates from an abstruse place where suburban drudgery gives way to a self-inflicted, existential crisis." In 2007, Haynes made an amusing two-minute introduction to the film that, naturally, went viral.

"You said that you were miserable during the making of Velvet Goldmine [1998]. Do you think this misery reflects in your film and is this going to make you masochistic about future projects?" Gabe Klinger had a few questions for Haynes probably about a year after Velvet was released.

In 2002, Daniel Kasman gave Far From Heaven an "A," noting that "Haynes is paying homage to, and commenting on the melodramas 1950s, and especially the films of Douglas Sirk who made several melodramas that used the genre to subvert the image of American life in such films as All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind."

As it happens, J Hoberman, who's written what I consider to be one of the best pieces on I'm Not There. (2007), a film "doggedly pop-modernist in its layered, nonlinear, post-Citizen Kane structure and strategically applied Dylanology," has an essay in the new issue of Artforum, "Pop Before Pop: Welles, Sirk, Hitchcock": "In a 1987 interview, in which he referred to Sirk as the 'first hyperreal artist,' the painter David Salle said he despaired of ever making an artwork as great as Imitation of Life. Rainer Werner Fassbinder embraced Sirk as a precursor of the populist and critical cinema to which he aspired. Fassbinder’s 1973 Ali: Fear Eats the Soul remade All That Heaven Allows; Todd Haynes's 2002 Far from Heaven remade both All and Ali into a 'Sirk movie' that illuminated what the master necessarily concealed."

For those who really want to spend the day with Todd Haynes, I recommend Jason Bellamy and Ed Howard's thorough discussion at the House Next Door, the collection of links to interviews and more at They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? and another collection of essays to dip into, The Cinema of Todd Haynes: All That Heaven Allows.

 

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Here’s a link to the interview I did with Todd when “I’m Not There” came out http://www.laweekly.com/2007-11-22/film-tv/todd-haynes-far-from-hollywood/ Todd majored in semiotics at Brown. Hi classmates and best pals were Laura Linney, Elizabeth McGovern and Jennifer Jason Leigh From the looks of the “MIlred Pierce” trailer this is going to be quite the deal. It’s clearly a genuine period film — not a postmodern variation of periodicity as with “Far From Heaven.”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzgL7emRnXs&feature=player_embedded
As always, many, many thanks, David. Now that HBO has a foothold in Central Europe, I can only hope they’ll be expanding — at least just enough to be available in Berlin.
I’m sure you’ll be able to see it one way or another. Todd’s such a super-cool guy. He’s living in Portland these days — as has Gus since the dawn of time. So if Portland blows up it’ll take a good 3/4 of the New Queer Cinema with it.
With the risk of drawing more attention to it, I’m horrified that my interview with Haynes has resurfaced on the web! Indeed it was around the time VELVET GOLDMINE was coming out, and I was, um, fifteen…
And did Ewan McGregor snuggling with Christian Bale help?

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