Tag Archives: passion

FILM REVIEW: Carol

There seems to have always been a degree of prudishness in the United States when it comes to anything sex or sexuality related. That may well be rich coming from an Englishman, but the juxtaposition between the apparent blanket acceptance of gun wielding patriots and the often vociferous disapproval by many of ‘love’ expressed in any way other than through a conventional, heterosexual union, is both stark and prominent.

Mid-century America seems as glaring an example of this as any relatively recent moment in time.

Carol is the film adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt,telling the story of a young lady, Therese, discovering her sexual identity, and Carol, a woman remaining stoic through the breakdown of her marriage and a subsequent messy divorce.

Right from the off, by way of Therese and Carol’s shared fascination with a  model train set on display in the department store in which Therese works – something perhaps that would be considered traditionally the domain  of young boys or men – we are made aware that both ladies are in some way ‘different’ from the then accepted norm.

Their initial introduction to one another through Carol’s purchase of the aforementioned train set as a present for her young daughter, is developed still further by way of a fateful occurrence when Carol leaves one of her gloves behind in the store. Therese’s good natured deed in posting the glove back to its owner begins a friendship, which quickly develops,  underpinned by latent sexual desire. The simmering passion lurking beneath the surface can ultimately only be contained for so long.

As with all good romantic sagas, something inevitably arises to threaten the course of true love and happiness. Carol’s attempts to reach an amicable divorce settlement, particularly with regard to custody of her young daughter, are thrown into disarray when her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), discovers Carol’s secret and threatens to deny her any form of custody whatsoever.

A woman such as Carol, aware that this is 1950s America, holds none of the aces and faces a battle for custody that she simply cannot win with things as they stand.

Tough choices therefore lie ahead for both her and Therese…

Director Todd Haynes has certainly brought out excellent performances from the Audrey Hepburn-esque Rooney Mara as Therese, but particularly from the here, aloof and rather unapproachable Cate Blanchett in the lead role, producing arguably her career-best work to date.

Shot on 16mm film through a near constant haze of many a provocatively puffed upon cigarette, there is a grainy, soft-focused effect at play, adding significantly to the film’s heavily-stylised and somewhat beautiful mystique.

Carol is a well paced, evocative study of sexual awakenings, forbidden love and longing in the face of adversity, but equally, a tale of men’s frustrations, bordering on exasperation, when they perceive that they have been in some way ‘wronged’.

There is sometimes no telling the lengths that a man might go to under such circumstances.

Underpinned by a strong Carter Burwell score, Carol is award-worthy stuff on many levels – make no mistake.

 

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FILM REVIEW: Palio

The Palio is the oldest horse race in the world, run in the central piazza of the beautiful Italian city of Siena. Preceded by much pageantry, it is a full throttle affair, encapsulating Italian society and the ‘system’ in which it operates, in a microcosm.
Run twice a year, every summer, it offers the residents of Siena’s various districts a chance to claim bragging rights in the city.
Palio is a  documentary which focuses on the 2013 and 2014 Palios and the intense rivalry between both rival districts and race jockeys, alike.
Gigi Bruschelli is the corrupt veteran of the race and the prime scalp that all others seek to dislodge. Giovanni Atzeni is his once trainee; a gifted, twenty-eight year old, level-headed prodigy and pretender to Bruschelli’s throne.
These two, amongst others, go head to head in a bid to be crowned champion, pitting experienced know-how against youthful determination.
If rivalries between two legendary, retired champions of yesteryear are anything to go by, there’s certainly no love loss between the Palio’s jockeys. With their outspoken re-writing of history, tensions continue to simmer between them in largely comedic fashion, many years after they’ve hung up their caps and whips. Their passion for the Palio, like everyone else’s, seems undimmed by the passage of time.
It’s a very well put together account, which, much like recent documentaries Amy and Senna, steers away from the conventional talking heads type of delivery, opting instead for largely incidental commentary, giving the film a free, less  structured feel to it and a strong sense of authenticity.
Sadly,  the saying: “and don’t spare the horses” has never been more appropriate, with eleven or twelve of them careering around the perilous piazza track, jockey whips flailing about wildly as both horses and jockeys are subjected to their leathery justice in ferocious fashion.
We only have to think of the Spanish Running of the Bulls or the Shearing of the Beasts to realise that human beings, the world over, seem only too willing to hold dear to archaic traditions that have scant regard for the well being of animals and The Palio, admittedly to a lesser extent, is no exception.
This whip-cracking, thunderous romp around a sharp-cornered, dusty track, preceded by the vociferous chanting of proud inhabitants of Lupa, Eagle, Porcupine and other assorted districts, whilst being an admittedly impressive spectacle, is just another example of disregard for animal life and the fact that the tone of the film is so overwhelmingly reverential, just leaves me cold.
‘Rocky on horseback’ they say?
Well, perhaps, but the prevailing sentiment remains.
On another level, The Palio is essentially silly little boys games taken way too seriously, never summed up more than when the church gets involved, going so far as to bless the winning horse and rider in the Cathedral itself; all the while, surrounded by a massed, frenzied crowd.
If we can manage to disassociate ourselves for a moment from any such negativity that surrounds Palio (and I do appreciate that that is in itself a subjective thing), as a pure spectacle of raw human passion and tub-thumping pride, it takes some beating and it’s understandable how locals and tourists alike can get swept up in its frenzy of thrills and spills each summer.

It also says a lot that a really well crafted film, beautifully shot and edited and awash with a glorious, sumptuous 1960s era Ennio Morricone soundtrack, can leave one with such a feeling of indifference, bordering on disapproval.