Rather than a forward-looking lesbian representation, Todd Haynes's Carol, an adaptation by Phyllis Nagy of Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel, The Price of Salt, looks to images and affective investments of the past to explore lesbian representability, the historical discourses and aesthetic codes through which desire between women can be recognized. The collaboration brings together preoccupations from Haynes's oeuvre and themes from Highsmith's that question reception of the film in terms of a happy ending and future progress. Through evocative art direction, camerawork, and star performances, the film invites the viewer to share the perspective of Therese (Rooney Mara), a nearly blank character written as Highsmith's stand-in, who is subsumed by desire for Carol (Cate Blanchett), a wealthy, discontented suburban wife and mother whom she meets by chance. The lovers’ exclusivity, and even their persecution, are understood as elements of fantasy that ultimately shed light on queer history.
Sketchy Lesbians: Carol as History and Fantasy
Patricia White is Professor of Film and Media Studies at Swarthmore College and the author of Women's Cinema/World Cinema: Projecting Contemporary Feminisms (Duke University Press, 2015); Uninvited: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Lesbian Representability (Indiana University Press, 1999); and co-author/editor, in addition, of an anthology and textbook. She is a member of the Film Quarterly editorial board.
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Patricia White; Sketchy Lesbians: Carol as History and Fantasy. Film Quarterly 1 December 2015; 69 (2): 8–18. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2015.69.2.8
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