Say Hello – Visiting the Film Museum:
September 29 to October 8, 2017
One of the key authors of modern American cinema, Todd Haynes (*1961) will visit the Austrian Film Museum for the first time, bringing with him not only his rarely screened early works and his widely celebrated features, but also his most recent film Wonderstruck, a virtuoso piece of cinematic craft and historical (re-)imagination.
From his entrance on the scene as the figurehead of a "New Queer Cinema" (Poison, 1991) to the highly distinctive work produced during the past two decades, Haynes has retained the spirit of a true independent – at a time when the media industry increasingly hijacked the "indie" label as such. Between his revision of classical melodrama, Far From Heaven (2002), the Bob Dylan kaleidoscope I'm Not There (2007) and the Patricia Highsmith adaptation Carol (2015), he has continuously experimented with new stylistic approaches while steadfastly dedicating his narratives to the conflict between societal pressures and personal desires.
A former student of art and semiotics, Haynes has interwoven an intellectual gaze with an intense interest for popular culture and its historical effects. He enters the emotional depths of his (often torn) characters, revealing the fine web of social and cultural stipulations they are caught in. Fully aware that cinema is (also) a time machine, he devotes himself to its transformative and soul-stirring power, eloquently encapsulated in the title of his latest film.
This special sensibility could be seen emerging in his first (scandalous) success. In Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1988), Haynes re-enacts the life of the famous pop singer and her death from anorexia using Barbie dolls – an equally absurd and disturbing metaphor for the unrealistic expectations (and the toy mentality) of celebrity culture leading to human tragedy. Drawing their inspiration from Jean Genet, the outsider stories in Poison took an even more experimental turn. With a variety of stylistic means, the film drew up a resistant image of homosexuality based on the experience of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. In his masterwork Safe (1995), Haynes condensed the sense of all-encompassing social malaise into the story of an average woman (Julianne Moore) whose inexplicable allergies force her into an uncanny New Age exile. Estrangement becomes the driving force of this existentialist and bloodless horror film.
Since then, Haynes has reconstructed and radically expanded classical genre forms with cinephile passion (and with the support of a well-rehearsed team of collaborators, including producer Christine Vachon and DoP Ed Lachman). The musical film, for instance, turns into an extravagant, politically conscious dissection of rock mythology (Velvet Goldmine, 1998) or an enigmatic kind of bio-historiography, dissolving the subject's identity into multiple attributes of gender, class and race (I'm Not There). Haynes also places the 1940s and '50s cinema of emotions under a contemporary lens, sumptuously so (Far From Heaven) or in extremely subdued fashion (Carol). Along the way, he has achieved a feat he admires in directors such as Hitchcock or Douglas Sirk and hardly any U.S. director has mastered – the balancing act of "making popular cinema and remaining inherently subversive."
During the retrospective, Todd Haynes will hold a masterclass and several audience Q&As. The Austrian premiere of "Wonderstruck" will be shown on Opening night. With thanks to FilmNation Entertainment. No ticket reservation possible for the Opening night, advance ticket sales at the box office (starting August 30).