Carol

Carol ★★★★★

This is my 12th time seeing it and the ninth since reading Patricia Highsmith's great book "The Price of Salt."

On this day in history, Therese Belivet had lunch with Carol Aird.


Before I dive into my entry for this, I must apologize. I promised to watch it twice in November. I had all intentions to, but family interfered. I had the Saturday all mapped out that I would watch the bonus features and then the film. Alas, they wanted to hold a special dinner. My sister had just gotten back in town and it was our turn to celebrate Thanksgiving (I had three this year - which is too many if you ask me). I kept trying to reschedule, but school kept interfering and then I had to catch up on movies and... Let's just call it "the holiday season."

But there wasn't a chance that I would miss December 21. It's a big day for Carol fans. Even as I write this while getting ready to go about my day, I knew that I had to see it. It's still heartwarming and joyful. Seeing Letterboxd tell me that I logged this film 12 times is delightful. This is also the first time that I watched it in the morning. It's not a terribly different experience, but alas my mind was preoccupied as I am trying to figure out what today holds for me.

But I'm getting sidetracked. I promised that I would review the special features this time. In all honesty, it hits the familiar EPK format. There's talking heads and some behind the scenes footage. There were even interviews that made me think of the film differently. I admit that I am a story man first, so visual symbolism and effects escape my criticism regularly. I am unsure if they meant the film, but there was talk of the story being like a noir film. I get that from the Patricia Highsmith novel, but the film lacks enough cynicism to pull it off. However, I am impressed that I missed the fact that Carol wore "aggressive" outfits that were usually red. I also like the story of Carol's hat (fun fact: she wasn't originally going to have one).

Yet what I came away understanding most about myself is that the best films don't make me think of the behind the scenes work. I saw those videos of Todd Haynes directing people and I felt an odd feeling. It was fascinating but almost as if I was second guessing myself. It's here that I realize that part of the reason that I loathed The Revenant is that it's a film that feels like it's explicitly telling you that it's being made. Basically, you see Leonardo DiCaprio suffer and it's real (which is too masochistic for my tastes). There's an absence of fiction. Also, the endless reports beforehand only made it sound insecure. Carol didn't need to tell me anything. It just came out and impressed me as as cinematic achievement. Just to let future filmmakers know, the way to impress me is to not make me think of why you did something (see: The Revenant) but how you did it.

Since the next entry shall be my last in the camp of writing these entries (parting is such sweet sorrow), I figured that I would try and cover my bases here. I am sure that there are those who could ask the question "What is your favorite scene?" To me, the answer has always been one that could be tricky if misinterpreted. However upon rewatch, I am starting to lean towards another scene. I will share them here.

For the past dozen or so viewings, my favorite scene has been the New Year's Eve scene. The feeling of being alone on New Year's Eve has always elicited a powerful emotion out of me. It's a moment of communion, and to see the world happy without you is something I can sometimes relate to - admittedly not usually on December 31. Add in that "Auld Lang Syne" usually makes me cry anyways, and it creates this powerful feeling of starting a new year with someone you love. Yes, the sex that follows is beautiful and intimate. Haynes shoots it without perversion. Yet I'm allured by the feeling of being broken free of that isolation in a way so personal that you're almost helpless. There's something to "I never looked like that." that gets me. It's almost like a deeper trust has been made as these two people, free of the communion outside, have finally found their soul mates.

I admit the scene that hit me hard this time has more poignancy in language than in visual clarity. Yet it connects on a deep level.

It's the moment when Abby gives Therese the note. She is sitting in front of Spare Time (nice symbolism on its own). The camera pulls in as she reads the letter. It's a passionate farewell that lacks malice, creating uncertainty if Carol will ever return to Therese's side. However, it's the line that ends "... because you are young." that makes me realize how naive and optimistic I can be. I do want answers sometimes to things that are beyond my control. It's a part of growing older and shows the differences between the maturity of its characters. I admit that I've only begun to fully understand why this scene resonates, but there's so much beautiful language here that grabs me no matter what I'm doing at the moment.


My goal for the grand finale is to watch Carol on December 24: exactly one year to when I first watched it. It is here that I will share my embarrassing story of what happened when I watched the film for the first time. It's not something cinephiles should be happy that I did, but it was my only way to see it at the time. Also, I may try to watch the Dwight D. Eisenhower inauguration speech just to see if that provides any additional context. I hope it does.


To President McKinley!

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