We all had some fun last week watching and thinking about Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece, PERSONA. February has come in gently too, and as most of the country suffers under severe Winter conditions, we seem to be the chosen people; the ones who are enjoying early and false Spring. This Friday the Tacoma Film Club is proud to present an early Todd Haynes film, SAFE (1995).
His first feature film, POISON (1991), was very controversial, called pornographic by some, even though it won several awards at film festivals. It made Haynes a pioneer in launching a new genre “Queer Cinema”. After SAFE, he went on to give us VELVET GOLDMINE (1998), FAR FROM HEAVEN (2002), and a fabulously different kind of movie, I’M NOT THERE (2007). At present he is putting the finishing touches on the remake of Joan Crawford’s MILDRED PIERCE. SAFE (1995) won the American Independent Award at the Seattle International Film Festival.
He once said, “Writing and directing a film is like making something out of nothing, and it requires so many people’s collaborative efforts and participation that it seems at any moment it could just fall through the cracks and be gone forever.”
Roger Ebert wrote, “To some degree, SAFE suggests that Carol may in fact be responsible for aspects of her illness. Her life and world are portrayed as so empty, so pointless, that perhaps she has grown allergic as a form of protest.”
Julianne Moore is a veteran of 63 film appearances since 1984. SAFE (1995) was her eighth feature film. I think she is a terrific actress and enjoyed her in BENNY & JOON (1993), THE FUGITIVE (1993), Robert Altman’s SHORT CUTS (1993), SURVIVING PICASSO (1996), THE MYTH OF FINGERPRINTS (1997), THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998), A MAP OF THE WORLD (1999), MAGNOLIA (1999), HANNIBAL (2001), THE SHIPPING NEWS (2001), FAR FROM HEAVEN (2002), THE HOURS (2002), and A SINGLE MAN (2009).
She once said, “When I act I’m looking for the truth. The audience does not come to see you–they come to see themselves.”
SAFE (1995) Written & Directed by Todd Haynes @ 119 minutes.
The film stars Julianne Moore, Xander Berkeley, and Peter Friedman.
Synopsis: An upper middle class housewife living in California seems to have a privileged, almost perfect existence–until one day when subtle changes begin to effect her and she becomes ill; moving from small headaches to other forms of horrific rebellion within her body. Medically and psychiatrically, nothing can be found as a cause for these mysterious maladies. Finally she resorts to New Age solutions, enrolling in a holistic health spa in search for answers. This is a “horror movie of the soul”, suggesting that possibly our environment may soon become an adversary, or perhaps that the emptiness of some people’s lives can lead headlong into a total breakdown of our vehicle, our instrument–our bodies. Tagline, “In the 21st century nobody will be….Safe.”
A reviewer on IMDb wrote, “This is a really tragic film, but still brilliantly shot, directed, edited, and its sets are so appropriate. ( Working on a limited budget many of the sets were actually the real home of the director’s parents and relatives in the San Fernando Valley of California.) Julianne Moore’s “Carol White” is absent from the film, absent from life.” I noticed that everything in her life was done mechanically, from sex, to conversations with her friends and her domestics. She seems hollow, dull, other-directed, like a breathing Stepford Wife. Can we figure out from the film what is wrong with her? Was she rejecting the horror around her, retreating like Elizabeth in PERSONA? Or more frightening, is she just running out of the fake vibrance she held herself together with, wandering through life in a daze, moving without being alive, empty as a robotic clone, never knowing her inner self, never achieving the victory of self discovery? As she finally said to her husband, “Where am I? Right now?”.
Some feel that SAFE is an allegory dealing with the AIDS virus. I think it is much more than that. Haynes does not offer us a solution, no closure, just the experience of confronting several problematic situations–the environment, New Age teachings and postulates, and the sad forfeiture of our real selves in order to embrace what we perceive to be conformity. What he leaves us with is a closing shot of Carol struggling to say, “I love you,” to her own emaciated reflection in the mirror. Is a real person emerging? Is there hope for Carol? You decide.
One reviewer wrote, “The film reminded me of KOYAANISQUATSI, indeterminate visions of emptiness, of life out of balance. “
So friends and compeers, come and join us this Friday, February 12, 2010 at the Center for Spiritual Learning, at 206 North J Street, located at the corners of Division and J streets in Tacoma, to see Todd Hayne’s early masterpiece, SAFE (1995). If you like talking about movies and life, come early, around 6pm, and come downstairs for heaping helpings of lovingly prepared food served up by the Phantom Director and Farishta. As you descend to the kitchen, you will smell the soup, perhaps hear music or the warm hum of others visiting, awaiting your arrival. “We are Family,” is more than a homily or lyrics to a song, it is the heartbeat of our film club. You can buy raffle tickets if you want, hoping to snare 40% of the cash gathered, or a terrific DVD from my collection. Around 7pm we go upstairs to the sanctuary and settle in for a short film, announcements, the raffle winners, and my sterling intro to the night’s feature. I sincerely hope to see you at the movies!!