The Least Likely Melodrama 

Aaron Beam is So in Love with Todd Haynes

Far From Heaven

Dir. Todd Haynes

Opens Fri Nov 15

Various Theatersa

Portland director Todd Haynes' new film, Far From Heaven, tackles issues of race, sexuality, and gender utilizing the form of the 1950s melodrama, a la Douglas Sirk. Film critics, from the most mainstream to the most pretentious, are raving about it, and there's serious talk of Academy Award contention. I asked Todd some questions about all the praise Far From Heaven has been receiving. For a review of the film, see pg 32.

Do you think Julianne Moore could win the award for best actress? If it were up to me, I would just give it to her right now.

Well, I would too, but I think we're probably biased. But, um, it's weird. I mean, the general thing that's happening now is definitely weird for me, because this movie was a real experiment. I did want it to effect people emotionally, but I wasn't going to go easy on any of the stylistic aspects, so I was really trying to have my cake and eat it too. And the fact that [all the Oscar talk] seems to be happening in places I LEAST suspected--did you see the review that Owen Gleiberman wrote for Entertainment Weekly?--It's over the top, you know? It's bizarre. Roger Ebert and Rex Reed and Peter Travers and Owen Gleiberman and all these people are really over the top about it, which is great! It's amazing! But we'll see if regular filmgoers dig it.

I think they will. The film is intelligent and sophisticated, but it also has...it's a lot more accessible than some of your other movies.

I would love this to be the movie that everybody's mom and grandmother go to see, you know? And I think it has a chance. What's hard is to get to those people, because that's not where the marketing mentality is aimed--the over-40, over-50 crowd.

Well, I have to say, as soon as I saw the movie, I wrote an email to my mom telling her she had to see it.

Yes!

And honestly, I haven't done that with any of your other movies.

Sure. I mean, all my favorite Hollywood movies--like Hitchcock or Wilder--are movies that were played at a popular level in their time, but had all these other things going on that are really subversive or weird or interesting or whatever.

So do you think it was just a happy accident that it happened with this film?

Well, I guess to the degree that I wanted it to have sort of a universal sadness about it, I was aiming for something that could cross over in that way. But I knew it was going to be hard to pull that off, given the stylistic constraints, and the fact that we weren't going to deviate from them. There are little things I wanted to do, which I did in Safe to some degree. You know, just reduce the level of enormity in terms of theme so that, for instance, the word "fuck" would actually be shocking again. The only way you can go, in this moment of louder, bigger, more violent, more explosive movies...the only way you can start to feel something again is to go the other way--to reduce it, so you can actually re-endow meaning or feeling into the terms of our world. Because I think risk is getting leveled in meaning and effect and value. And you don't feel anything anymore. So how do you make people feel again? Where do you go? And of course we went to just the most worn-out, nappy old model: the melodrama. We went to the least likely place, but maybe that helps. Maybe when you're not expecting an emotional connection is when it hits you more.

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