FILM 1606: CAROL
TRIVIA: The character of Carol Aird was inspired by Virginia Kent Catherwood (1915-1966), a Philadelphia socialite six years older than Patricia Highsmith with whom the author had a love affair in the 1940s. Catherwood lost custody of her daughter after her homosexuality was used against her with a taped recording of a lesbian liaison she had in a hotel room. ("'Instantly, I love her': the affairs that inspired Carol". The Telegraph, 28 November 2015)
The novel "The Price of Salt" was inspired by a blonde woman in a mink coat (Mrs. E.R. Senn, née Kathleen Wiggins) who ordered a doll from Patricia Highsmith when she was working as a temporary salesgirl in the toy section of Bloomingdale's in New York City during the 1948 Christmas season. Highsmith recalled feeling "odd and swimmy in the head, near to fainting, yet at the same time uplifted, as if I had seen a vision." She completed the outline for the story in about two hours that same night, likely under the influence of chicken pox which she discovered she had the next day. Highsmith wrote in the Afterword for the 1990 new edition of the novel: "One of the small runny-nosed children there must have passed on the germ, but in a way the germ of a book too: fever is stimulating to the imagination." She completed "The Price of Salt" by 1951.
Carol was shot on Super 16 millimeter film to resemble the look and feel of photographic film from the late 1940s/early 1950s. The cinematography was influenced by the photojournalism of Vivian Maier, Ruth Orkin, Helen Levitt, and Esther Bubley. Photography by Saul Leiter (known for shooting through windows and using reflection) was a key influence.
The film is based on the romance novel "The Price of Salt" by Patricia Highsmith. Originally published in 1952 under the alias "Claire Morgan". After it fell out of print it was reissued in 1984 by lesbian publishing house Naiad Press. Highsmith denied rumors that she was the author for 38 years until she agreed to the publication of a new, retitled edition that included an afterword by her. "Carol" was published in the United Kingdom in 1990 by Bloomsbury Publishing under Patricia Highsmith's name. The novel sold nearly a million copies before the 1990 publication.
The film received a 10-minute standing ovation at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival (Festival de Cannes) international premiere.
Director Todd Haynes creates image books as a guide to the visual feel of his films, going back to his drama Safe (1995). The compendiums are culled from photographs, film stills, paintings, periodicals and other sources to generate ideas for the film's style. They are meant initially for the cinematographer. (The books are not to be confused with storyboards, the shot-by-shot breakdowns he has made since his first feature, Poison (1991).) His image books are "a way of communicating beyond words that gets to the crux of what the mood, temperature and stylistic references would be." For Carol "it becomes great reference for clothes, hair, makeup, the way women carry themselves in the period and the specificity of how they're being created from the outside in." The image book includes, for example, references to other films such as: Brief Encounter (1945) and Vertigo (1958) for their sense of period, and The Sugarland Express (1974) for its innovative cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond; Lovers and Lollipops (1956) for the locations and The Pumpkin Eater (1964) for the interiors; and urban photography by Ernst Haas, Helen Levitt and Vivian Maier. Haynes assembles his image books almost as a kind of visual mixtape, pulling photos and movie screen grabs of his inspirations and laying them out in pages of collages to create a kind of virtual movie. Haynes created more than 80 pages of photo collages for "Carol" that served as a road map through the production. It took him two months to compile. [from N.Y.Times 1/28/2016 "Todd Haynes Collects Images to Guide the Feel of His Films"]
In an interview for HitFix, Todd Haynes said that Cate Blanchett reminded him of actress Monica Vitti (in the role of Vittoria) in L'Eclisse (1962). Haynes made the connection to Vitti in the scene where Therese develops her photograph of Carol asleep, with a lock of hair on her cheek. The style and position of Carol's hair is similar to that of a sleeping Vittoria in a scene from the Italian film.