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Art House Pick of the Week: SAFE, by Todd Haynes

March 11, 2011 | By | Add a Comment

Todd Haynes’s SAFE (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Tuesday, 6pm

KB NOTE: THIS THE THE GREATEST FILM I’VE EVER SEEN. You can see it in my top 5% list of best movies of all time.

Director Todd Haynes has restless eyes and ears that never linger in one aesthetic or time-period for longer than a film. And, despite his continual shifts, it’s the aesthetic that tends to star in his films, but this is never a shallow engagement. If Haynes can be said to have a formula, it is to find a pristine surface and scratch until we can see the uneasy construction underneath. His first (banned) public experiment was SUPERSTAR: THE KAREN CARPENTER STORY, in which he used Barbie doll whittling as an inspiringly literal representation of Karen Carpenter’s struggle with her eating disorder. FAR FROM HEAVEN honored and interrogated the world of Douglas Sirk. In I’M NOT THERE, he chipped away at the impenetrable image of Bob Dylan, all the while pointing at the impossibility of his project with a graphic mix of sympathy and irony. SAFE, which is screening as a part of the Siskel’s series of ‘Psychological Horror Films,’ takes a break from public images to get intimate with a housewife’s health. Shot and lit with the peachy haloes of a douche commercial, SAFE’s blurry suburban Los Angeles is an unlikely venue for horror. We follow Carol White on her errands, to her exercise classes, with her friendly acquaintances; no one seems to mean her any harm. But it’s precisely this vagueness—of purpose, of symptoms, of identity—that begins to gnaw at Carol until she is reduced to her flintiest self-preservation impulse. She suffers from both the controversial Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and the middle-class affliction of Unlimited Healing Budget, and either condition could prove fatal. Haynes takes care not to fix any problems or to answer stupid questions; the ending lingers in one’s mind like an unresolved chord. With a lecture by Jim Trainor. (1995, 119 min, 35mm) JF

TRAILER HERE: (this film is old enough that the trailer is bad and all the stuff on youtube is spammy, even this one has an ad and bobble head critic

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