Haynes. Haynes has a very worthy entry in the top 100 of the decade in the 1990’s, 2000’s and 2010’s. He’s a master of production design (often oppressive beauty/suburbia) whose work is part of the proud lineage in the melodrama genre that can be traced back from Douglas Sirk to RW Fassbinder to Almodovar. His weakness is that when he’s not staying in this genre and mode of film (Safe, Carol, Far From Heaven), he tends to stumble a little –his other four archiveable films don’t come terribly close to the top 100 of their decade.

Best film: Safe

  • I’ve seen Haynes’ Safe three times now and it’s gone from a Recommend, to a HR, and now I believe it to be a Must-See top 5 of the year quality film. It’s his strongest effort
  • It’s highly allegorical (or at least a few readings of it), ambiguous, filled with paranoia and Julianne Moore’s best (or one of) performance. She’s like a Lynne Ramsay vessel—retreating, frail— very physical performance
  • Her name is “Carol”—name of Haynes 2015 movie
  • Opens like a horror film- music and driving at night in a safe suburban neighborhood
  • 35mm
  • Opens on Moore hating having sex with her husband- like much of his performance they mainly show him from behind and Moore is the subject
  • Shows her life- flowers, furniture, aerobics—innocuous and banal
  • Hints at AIDS once early then references twice at the end with the cult-like group
  • Gorgeous mise-en-scene—some of it looks like it’s enveloping her- it’s a remarkable performance but it’s largely shot at medium to medium long shots with the suburban affluence taking over her almost – I adore the slow tracking shot in on her with her “help” all around her in her mansion
  • Ambiguous- hints at possible AIDS, struggling marriage, self-help advice from friends at aerobics, religion mentioned on the talk radio when her coughing fit starts—even mental illness—
  • Has a bit of Cronenberg/Howard Shore apocalyptic feel— “gory” school paper by step son
  • Pop music from 1987
  • Mise-en-scene galore- mural behind psychiatrists
  • The one-man character study is almost like a work from late PT (or Lynn Ramsay)—slowly builds—mise-en-scene as character for sure
  • Even during a sobbing scene of Moore Haynes holds it in long-shot letting the mise-en-scene play a part
  • The narrative and her decline keep dialing it up more and more—she’s physical derailing—skin and scabs— weakness—and that cult is chillingly presented
  • She’s a tough character- because she’s largely empty—weight loss for Moore with the physical performance
  • The film slows a bit at the ranch with all the dialogue and lack of mise-en-scene museum piece frames —I prefer the opening sections of the film with Haynes framing taking effect on Moore in the early onset. Ending with a tracking shot close-up on her face in the mirror- wilting—decomposing
  • I think there’s a read here (and the film doesn’t give it to us easily) of this is what it’s like to be the outsider stare on us- like AIDS
  • Must-See
from Safe, gorgeous mise-en-scene—some of it looks like it’s enveloping her- it’s a remarkable performance but it’s largely shot at medium to medium long shots with the suburban affluence taking over her almost
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immaculately set frames like Sirk meets Ozu
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another stunner here- production design detail
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Shows her life- flowers, furniture, aerobics—innocuous and banal

total archiveable films: 7

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this is from Velvet Goldmine – a brilliant tableau shot– mise-en-scene perfection– this could be from Peter Greenaway’s work

top 100 films:  0

top 500 films:  1 (Safe)

top 100 films of the decade:  3 (Safe, Far From Heaven, Carol)

most overrated: I’m Not There is overrated. It isn’t in the top 1000 on the TSPDT list but when you filter over to the 21st century it is #10 of 2007 and I’m at least 10 spots lower.

most underrated:  Haynes doesn’t really have one. Safe is currently the only film on the TSPDT top 1000 but Carol and Far From Heaven (the other two that should be there) will be there soon and have tremendous (deserved) critical reputations.  

gem I want to spotlight :  Far From Heaven

  • You can’t watch the film or discuss the film without mentioning the work of Douglas Sirk—Haynes entirely apes his style—this doesn’t have John Waters Cry Baby irony and pastiche—it’s no PT Anderson “doing” Scorsese with Boogie Nights or even Haynes nodding a little (perhaps not knowingly) to Cronenberg with Safe– this is almost like a lost Sirk film
  • Shot in 35mm
  • Roeper— triumph or art direction and acting
  • Elmer Bernstein—last feature film score- died in 2004—he’s 80 when released
  • Mark Friedberg—production designed- lots of Jarmusch films (Paterson, Broken Flowers), Wes Anderson (life aquatic, Darjeeling) and Ang Lee (Ice Storm)- shocked he didn’t get nominated
  • Heavy font titles in opening and “The End” from Sirk
  • Moore can play unintelligent very well (Warren Beatty could do this) but I don’t think this is that- she’s naive, clean cut- “Leave it to Beaver”—“oh jeez” her son says and she says “that’s not the kind of language we use in this house”
  • Fluorescent lighting- neon street signs—blue day for night sequences—Nicholas Ray- Sirk
  • The autumn leaves (stunningly beautiful) blocking the mise-en-scene at least three times—marvelous landscaping- a statement on the film, era, city, person, and a thing of beauty to look at— triumph of costume
  • Supporting actors- Viola Davis, Patricia Clarkston is fabulous- she was everywhere in 2002 (well 2003- Dogville and The Station Agent in 2003)
  • Almodovar is another comparison in the influence of Sirk. Almodovar is also a major figure in Queer cinema’s history (like Haynes) and influenced by Sirk who works in melodrama… but this is not a reimagining (like Tarantino with his B movie roorts or Altman winking at 40’s detective films with The Long Goodbye)—this is Sirk—Haynes nails the period and film details (like rear-projection driving). Almodovar uses Sirk’s influence to carve his own path
  • Multiple drop-dead gorgeous mise-en-scene set design achievements
  • Wearing masks, suburban hypocrisy
  • Might be the strongest career performance from all three leads- Dennis Haysbert, Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid – I think Moore is slightly stronger in Boogie Nights and Safe but those three are virtually tied- she’s perfect here—Quaid is also very good in The Right Stuff
  • Back to Moore—her face during pivotal scenes—the film and drama of it is really a series of crushing blows for her—when Quaid says he’s fallen in love, the famous train departure of Haysbert’s character—
  • HR/MS—probably MS or higher if it wasn’t such a Sirk repackaging
from Far From Heaven — a perfect shot
an accomplished acolyte of Sirk — like Fassbinder and Almodovar. This may even be your Mount Rushmore of mise-en-scene meets melodrama auteurs. Flowers, fall foliage, furniture carefully arranged—it’s beautiful (full stop—stunning)

stylistic innovations/traits:   Haynes, as mentioned in the opening, is an accomplished acolyte of Sirk — like Fassbinder and Almodovar. This may even be your Mount Rushmore of mise-en-scene meets melodrama auteurs. Flowers, fall foliage, furniture carefully arranged—it’s beautiful (full stop—stunning) but also serves the narrative and character as it oppresses or envelops Haynes’ protagonists. Both Carol and Dark Waters (much more prevalent/stronger in Carol) have the same brilliant shots of the street lights creating a reflection on the car window (almost like the sun spots lens flare in Gray’s Ad Astra). Haynes is an unqualified master of mise-en-scene. Two of Haynes’ films are creative biopics (fragmented Citizen Kane-like structure) about David Bowie (Velvet Goldmine) and Bob Dylan (I’m Not There). Haynes is an important figure in the lineage of Queer cinema as well. Poison- perhaps the most direct– Safe ambiguously hints at AIDS. His films have been champions of the outsider, those who have been ostracized, or take the female’s perspective—often the homemaker. He even ingenuously casts Blanchett as Bob Dylan.  

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crisp framing throughout Carol
Both Carol and Dark Waters (much more prevalent/stronger in Carol) have the same brilliant shots of the street lights creating a reflection on the car window (almost like the sun spots lens flare in Gray’s Ad Astra)
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from Carol again– giving Haynes one of the best 100 films of the decade three decades in a row– 1990’s, 2000’s and here, in 2015- with Carol

top 10

  1. Safe
  2. Carol
  3. Far From Heaven
  4. I’m Not There
  5. Velvet Goldmine
  6. Dark Waters
  7. Poison

By year and grades

1991- Poison R
1995 -Safe MS
1998- Velvet Goldmine R
2002- Far From Heaven HR/MS
2007- I’m Not There R
2015- Carol HR/MS
2019- Dark Waters R

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives