Saturday, January 9, 2016

Carol (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Todd Haynes (L.A. Confidential) directs this handsome and close-to-the-page adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel,  "Carol," about a young female artist and her attraction to an elite and enigmatic woman.

Highsmith is mostly known for her crime novels, which are a bit like Albert Camus with a darkly humored, deliberate cadence. Her 1950s book, "The Talented Mr. Ripley" after many years of near obscurity in America, was made into a crisp film starring Matt Damon and Jude Law and is now considered a classic of its type.

Inspired by the author's own employment in a department store, "Carol" is a portrait of anxious intimacy and dependence.

Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) works in a gray and claustrophobic store as a sales clerk. The customers rush past, faceless. Without any harbinger or warning, Carol (Cate Blanchett) enters the floor with the allure of a Hitchcock blonde and Therese is hooked.

Preoccupied, Carol asks for a doll as a gift for her daughter Rindy. Therese tells her about the wonder of trains and Carol asks for a set to be delivered.

A day later, at work, Therese gets a call.

It is Carol.

The trappings of the novel, from Carol's flowing blonde hair, her sumptuous fur coat and gloves, to her Packard car, are flawless and perfectly on point. Sharply on key as well is the cinematography by Edward Lachman who gives the person of Carol Aird a mysterious quality, both haunting and haunted. Lachman's sharp yet ghostly imagery suggests that all of our lives contain the possibility of a noir adventure.

The momentum builds slowly with an undulating rhythm with near fetishistic shots of fabric, fur and perfume, but soon the film moves masterfully in suspense and tension as Richard (Jake Lacy), Therese's hopeful suitor, becomes a needy weight. If that is not enough, there is Harge (Kyle Chandler), Carol's aggressive and square jawed husband who is stubborn and vexed and can't let go.

While there is none of the usual Highsmithian fauna here of sociopaths in the sun, there is a single revolver and the author's fans will be well pleased by this push-me-pull-you story with plenty of force and fret.

Cate Blanchett totally embodies this role with something of Kim Novak in her presentation of this woman's seductive simmer along with her curious  nonchalance. Rooney Mara is wholly realized as Therese, the young photographer who is very much in her passive shell, waiting for Carol's leather gloved inspiration knotted together by a green, perfumed scarf.

The pleasure of "Carol" is in its motion. First, it rolls along like a leisurely train, full of obsessive and dreamy character detail , only to build into uncertainty, apprehension and the very real discomfort of losing one's self in another.

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