Sunday, 20 December 2015



It would be very easy to blather on cluelessly about how I really didn't like Carol, and how I didn't find it interesting and I never cared for any of the characters and I thought it was slow and dreary and lifeless and I spent chunks of the film wondering whether I should just cut my losses and leave. All that would be absolutely true. But there's more to it than that: why? How come pretty much everyone else has raved so enthusiastically about it? How come the major reviewers have lauded it as the best thing since whatever sliced bread was the best thing since? Is it a case of the entire army marching out of step with me? I mean, I don't generally take a huge amount of notice of critics, but if everyone tells you it's great then you start to wonder when you don't agree. After all, given that there are no wrong answers in art (opinions are not facts), and the notion that one should no more be pilloried for not liking Carol than be pilloried for not liking anchovies, baroque music or Frank Spencer, why do I feel so disappointed?

Not my usual thing? I don't think so: a glance at my first-time movie list for 2015 includes '40s British war movies, a Carry On film, creaky old whodunnits, European crime thrillers, modern emotional drama and a spot of sleazy Nazisploitation - and that's just from titles beginning with C. Sure, I may ingest too much in the way of dumbo slashers but I like to think I'm fairly open-minded. The mere fact of the film centring on a lesbian love affair doesn't count: it may not be the kind of thing I actively seek out, but I don't necessarily shy away either. I really liked Blue Is The Warmest Colour: it was one of my favourite films of that year, and that had nothing to do with the phwoooar blimey sex scenes that made up maybe ten minutes of the three hour running time. (I also recall admiring Desert Hearts back in the 1980s.)

Is it to do with the people involved? Well, maybe: it's true I'm not a huge fan. Velvet Goldmine and Poison didn't do anything for me, and Far From Heaven (the most comparable of Haynes' films to Carol) was kind of alright, but I enjoyed the oddly titled [Safe] a lot. Cate Blanchett has done a huge amount of stuff, some of which I've liked and some of which I haven't, and here she's playing very cold and difficult to connect with as a woman stuck in loveless matrimony (but loving motherhood). Rooney Mara's character is far more likeable (though incredibly, unbelievably naive at one point) as the other, younger half of the relationship.

On the technical side, I'm not sure about the overly grainy 16mm look of the film; maybe we're so used to clean and shiny digital now that real film stock looks like papyrus when compared to standard A4 paper, though I'm still looking forward eagerly to seeing The Hateful Eight in 70mm next year. And I've never been a fan of Carter Burwell, whose style of music has mostly felt too sombre and (frankly) miserable for my taste, but I guess it fits the sombre nature of the film. You can't fault the sets and costumes and period details, though, which all look spot on to my untutored eye.

So what is it? It's not like I give that much of a hoot what the proper critics think as they've recommended some absolute duffers over the years: it's always interesting to see, hear or read differing opinions, for or against, but I don't think I take any of them as Holy Writ. Here I'm left wondering whether we actually saw the same film. Maybe no-one wanted to be the lone voice confessing they didn't think Carol was All That? Or maybe it's just me, not liking anchovies and Frank Spencer. But that doesn't make me wrong.


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