Carol

Carol ★★★★★

My granddad, who worships Cate Blanchett as much as we all do, had some problem making out all the impassioned whispers in this film. It didn't ruin it for him, though. He said he could get the gist of it well enough without hearing everything. And you can. The story is so built around secrecy and shame that every gesture counts, and the cast get this. Blanchett, for example, knows that it is significant that Carol looks to the left when she's bored, rather than down at the table. Haynes gets it too. You could actually follow most of this story just by paying attention to whether he's using frames-within-frames to divide or enclose his actors.

Unlike Haynes's other films, Carol doesn't need you to see and understand its craft and influences. Still, it doesn't hurt to recognise them, just like the queered-up echo of Chekhov's 'The Lady with the Lap-Dog' in Highsmith's ending enriches but never controls the narrative. On this viewing I realised, for example, that the scene of Rooney Mara and Jake Lacy arguing while walking through a series of open (empty?) door frames was possibly inspired by Godard's Contempt... but even if you spot this the important thing is not what Haynes takes but what he changes. In place of Godard's brutal, surgical pans, cinematographer Ed Lachman glides and slides, as he does throughout the film. Even in the heat of argument, the film remains a swoon under streetlights, an illustration of grace and sensitivity in the heat of passion.

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