Archive | Country Matters

The Courage of Intimacy: ‘Carol’

Walking out of “Carol,” director Todd Haynes’s newest film, I had to laugh about our need to sneer at the past no matter how much we fetishize it. Progress is elliptical, not linear, though the LGBT community can be forgiven for temporarily forgetting this fact. This year alone we’ve achieved civil rights inconceivable only decades before–when AIDS patients were treated by the government as if they’d earned their fate, and simply being gay could deny us of our legal right to work, live, find shelter, and, of course, love.

Amid this unprecedented groundswell of mainstream acceptance comes Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 eponymous novel about a love affair between the titular married socialite and Therese, a shopgirl twenty years her junior. Originally published under a pseudonym and with a different title, the book not only reflects the obstacles facing a lesbian couple in the mid-twentieth century but the holistic confusion facing any woman coming of age – when the world claims her body and sexuality before she’s grown comfortable with them herself. Students of queer and feminist literature have long prized the novel’s precision and defiant optimism, and for good reason. It is a quiet tour de force that remains radical today. Continue Reading →

Paris, Our Sister

I’ve been awake for hours, early even for me except it’s not really my time I’m on but the time of the Parisians, many of whom will not be able to wake up from this nightmare for months to come. We longtime New Yorkers have a sense of how this feels. But each time the insouciance of daily life is replaced by an unanticipated human-made disaster of this scale, the nature of the living nightmare is horribly unique. Only one thing remains the same: that there is no true rest for a long, long time.  I am sending love, so much love–the energetic equivalent of a cool hand upon the forehead. At this rawest of hours (at every hour, really) it is everything that we can give.

Swoony and Sincere: ‘Brooklyn’

Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn (2010) is a lovely novel. About Eilis, a 1950s Irish girl who moves to America but feels the pull of her homeland, it offers gently powerful insights about the complexity of the immigration experience. Restrained and wonderfully quiet, this is just the sort of novel that doesn’t translate well to the big screen. Yet “Brooklyn,” written by bad-boy author Nick Hornby and directed by John Crowley, is an equally lovely film, one that captures all the nuance of its antecedent without resorting to the clichés that can doom period adaptations. There’s not even a voiceover.

Saoirse Ronan stars, and it’s her best performance to date, which is really saying something. Since the beginning of her career, the twenty-one-year-old Irish actress has summoned a clear-eyed gravity that has worked equally well in bad-ass YA sagas (“Hanna,” “How We Live Now”) as in Oscar-baiting epics (“Atonement,” “The Lovely Bones”). Eilis is one of her first grown-up roles, and rather than succumbing to the self-consciousness that typically afflicts former child actors, she channels her new adulthood – sometimes peacocky, sometimes clumsy – as if it’s just another tool of her corporeal instrument. Such physicality is handy in this exceptionally nonverbal story, in which most people say the opposite of what they are feeling, if they say anything at all. (Not for nothing did Freud declare the Irish the only people impervious to psychoanalysis.) Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy