Haynes, Todd 1961-
HAYNES, Todd 1961-
Office—Bronze Eye Productions, 525 Broadway, Room 701, New York, NY 10012-4411.
Screenwriter, producer, director, actor. Apparatus Productions, New York, NY, cofounder, 1987-91.
Golden Gate Award, 1987, for Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story; Grand Jury Prize, Best Feature, Sundance Film Festival, 1991, Critics Award, Locarno and Portugal International Film Festivals, Best Film, Teddy's Berlin Film Festival, and National Endowment for the Arts grant, all for Poison;Grand Jury Prize, Best Film, USA Film Festival, 1994, for Dottie Gets Spanked; Director's Fortnight, Cannes Film Festival, 1995, and Best Independent Film, Seattle Film Festival, 1995, both for Safe; Artistic contribution award, Cannes Film Festival, 1998, for Velvet Goldmine; Golden Satellite award, International Press Academy, 2002, and Oscar nomination for best original screenplay, 2002, both for Far from Heaven.
(And producer and director) The Suicide (short), 1978.
(And producer and director) Assassins: A Film Concerning Rimbaud (short), 1985.
(And producer and director) Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (short), 1987.
(And director) Poison, Zeitgeist Films, 1991.
(And director) Dottie Gets Spanked (television short), 1993.
(And director) Safe, 1995.
(With James Lyons, and director) Velvet Goldmine, Miramax Films, 1998, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1998.
(And director) Far from Heaven, 2002.
Far from Heaven, Safe, and Superstar, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Letter from a Friend (short), director, 1982; Sex Shop (short), director, 1983; Muddy Hands, producer, 1988; Cause and Effect, producer, 1988; La Divina, producer, 1989; He Was Once, producer and actor, 1989; Anemone Me, producer, 1990; Oreos with Attitude, producer, 1990; Swoon, actor, 1992.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
I'm Not There: Suppositions on a Film Concerning Dylan, in production.
Todd Haynes is an icon in the world of independent film, with credits going back to the 1970s. He made waves with his short animated film, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, in which he portrayed the anorexic singer, who eventually died of that disease, and other characters using Barbie dolls. Karen's brother, Richard, and Mattel, creator of Barbie, took legal action that prevented the distribution of the film three years after its release. The sad story of the girl-next-door's obsession with perfection is one of the least seen, but most talked about small films.
The controversy continued when Haynes, who is openly gay, produced Poison, the production of which was aided by a small award from the National Endowment for the Arts. This horrified the American Family Association, owing to the explicitly gay content of the film. The three individual parts are titled "Hero," "Horror," and "Homo." "Hero" relates how a young boy kills his abusive father and then disappears. "Horror" is a 1950s-style sci fi film; and "Homo" is an adaptation of a Jean Genet story and portrays homoerotic relationships in a prison setting.
It took several years to find funding for his next full-length film, Safe, and during that period Haynes produced his short film, Dottie Gets Spanked. Based on Haynes's own childhood, it is about a young boy who is obsessed with a Lucille Ball-like television star.
The London Independent's Roger Clarke wrote that in Safe, "the lightness of touch Haynes displays in Dottie is transformed into something much darker and more ambivalent."
Safe stars Julianne Moore as Carol White, a Southern California housewife with a perfect life who is being poisoned by the chemicals and fragrances that come with material comfort and goods. Doctors can find no answers to Carol's allergic reactions, and she goes to a New Age facility in New Mexico in hopes of purging her system in this disturbing film that examines the value of progress.
Haynes denies that Carol's sickness is a metaphor for AIDS. Clarke noted that Haynes's "awareness of the 1980s migration of gay men into New Age health communes has played a strong role in his increasing distaste for such places." Haynes said that "this notion that people were somehow to blame for their illness, and the so-called empowerment this provides, really upsets me. The whole idea of the internal 'self' being this pure thing that we have access to and once you make contact your life falls into place, I think it really sucks. I'm disturbed how New Age thought has become so similar to right-wing thought."
Velvet Goldmine stars Ewan McGregor. Blase DiStefano commented in OutSmart that the film "is a tribute to the glam-rock era of the early 1970s in London—to David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Brian Ferry, and the 'extraordinary inversions they imposed,' said Haynes, 'on our notions of the performance, sexuality, and identity.'"
In an Interview article, Oren Moverman described Velvet Goldmine as "a glam-rock epic celebrating the androgynous musical culture of the 1970s. But it is not Haynes's choice of subject matter nor his meticulous visual style that makes him truly stand out. The fact that this stubbornly autonomous, formalist visionary—heart and soul—a genuine human being is what really makes him needed."
Haynes's critically acclaimed Far from Heaven is based on Douglas Sirk's 1956 All that Heaven Allows. In the original, Jane Wyman plays a New England widow with two college-age children who has a relationship with her much younger gardener, played by Rock Hudson. Haynes changed the plot, but adhered to the spirit of Sirk's work and the same sort of codes observed at the time of the making of the first film, codes which prevented Sirk from fully exploring the themes of this and his other films, including Magnificent Obsession, Written on the Wind, and Imitation of Life. Haynes's character, Cathy Whitaker, is played by Moore, in a blonde wig. She is a typical affluent housewife of the period, with two small children, a split-level in upper-class Hartford, Connecticut, who drives a powder-blue station wagon and wears fashionable clothing made with yards of fabric.
Cathy is married to Frank (Dennis Quaid), a successful businessman, and they are viewed as the perfect corporate couple. Frank, however, is coming to terms with his homosexuality, which Cathy must also ultimately deal with in such instances as when she discovers him kissing another man and frequenting a gay bar. Frank increasingly turns to alcohol to get over the rough spots as Cathy finds friendship with another man.
He is a gardener, but it is his race, rather than his age that is at issue. Raymond (Dennis Haysbert) is the handsome black single father of a small daughter and the owner of his own flower shop, who faces as much opposition from the black community over their relationship as Cathy does from the white.
"Interracial love and homosexual love are treated as being on different moral planes," wrote Roger Ebert for the Chicago Sun-Times online. "The civil rights revolution predated gay liberation by about ten years, and you can see that here: The movie doesn't believe Raymond and Cathy have a plausible future together, but there is bittersweet regret that they do not. When Frank meets a young man and falls in love, however, the affair is not ennobled but treated as a matter of motel rooms and furtive meetings. Haynes is pitch-perfect here in noting that homosexuality, in the 1950s, still dared not speak its name."
Andrew O'Hehir reviewed the film for Salon online, calling it "an explosion of synthetic delights. Which is not to say it lacks emotional impact—far from it. Far from Heaven is a movie for hardcore film geeks and regular folks alike, a stunning, and stunningly improbable, fusion of postmodern pastiche and old-school Hollywood melodrama. It's both a marvelous technical accomplishment and a tragic love story that sweeps you off your feet."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Artforum International, November, 2002, Geoffrey O'Brien, review of Far from Heaven, pp. 153-156, 202.
Hollywood Reporter, April 25, 2003, Chris Gardner, "Dialogue with Todd Haynes" (interview), p. 1.
Independent (London, England), April 17, 1996, Roger Clarke, "The bad boy and the bubble; Todd Haynes does things differently," p. 6.
Interview, February, 1997, Oren Moverman, "Human Haynes" (interview), p. 60.
New Yorker, November 18, 2002, Anthony Lane, review of Far from Heaven.
OutSmart, November, 1998, Blase DiStefano, "An Interview with Director Todd Haynes."
Sight and Sound, September, 1998, Nick James, "American Voyeur" (interview), pp. 8-10.
Chicago Sun-Times,http://www.suntimes.com/ (November 15, 2002, Roger Ebert, review of Far from Heaven.
IndieWire,http://www.indiewire.com/ (September 10, 2002), Howard Feinstein, review of Far from Heaven.
Onion: a.v. club,http://www.theavclub.com/ (November 5, 1998), Keith Phipps, review of Velvet Goldmine and interview with Haynes.
Salon,http://www.salon.com/ (November 8, 2002), Andrew O'Hehir, review of Far from Heaven.*