Film director Todd Haynes’s Carol is getting all the buzz at the Cannes Film Festival as I type this post. The drama is based on a Patricia Highsmith novel and it stars Cate Blanchett in a lesbian love story set in the 1950′s. Haynes has addressed taboo love in mid-Century America before in Far From Heaven, but he hasn’t won the Palme d’Or…yet…
This may be Haynes’s year but I’m not sure if 1987 was. Actually, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story blew my head off this evening while I was nursing a springtime cold with a hot bowl of instant chicken soup — just like mom used to tear out of an envelope! Antonia had sent me a text about the movie earlier and it looked interesting but when she asked me about it I was indifferent. Then she checked to see if I’d seen the text about the whole film being shot using Barbie dolls as actors? Actually, no. No I hadn’t seen that text…
Rock bios are kind of Haynes’s thing: he directed the glam remembrance Velvet Goldmine as well as the stunning Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There. Superstar is listed online as the director’s first film and this is one of the most priceless Wiki breakdowns I’ve ever read:
In 1987, while an MFA student at Bard College, Haynes made a short, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, which chronicles the life of American pop singer Karen Carpenter, using Barbie dolls as actors. The film presents Carpenter’s struggle with anorexia and bulimia, featuring several close-ups of Ipecac (the prescription drug Carpenter was reputed to have used to make herself vomit during her illness). Carpenter’s chronic weight loss was portrayed by using a “Karen” Barbie doll with the face and body whittled away with a knife, leaving the doll looking skeletonized. The film is also notable for staged dream sequences in which Karen, in a state of deteriorating mental health, imagines being spanked by her father.
Superstar featured extensive use of Carpenter songs, showcasing Haynes’ love of popular music (which would be a recurring feature of later films). Haynes failed to obtain proper licensing to use the music, prompting a lawsuit from Karen’s brother Richard for copyright infringement. Carpenter was reportedly also offended by Haynes’ unflattering portrayal of him as a narcissistic bully, along with several broadly dropped suggestions that he was gay and in the closet. Carpenter won his lawsuit, and Superstar was removed from public distribution; to date, it may not be viewed publicly. Bootlegged versions of the film are still circulated, and the film is sporadically made available on YouTube.
Well, guess what? Shit’s sporadic as hell right now ’cause I got that video right here.