Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Far from New York - and Loving It ; Interview with Todd Haynes, Director

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Far from New York - and Loving It ; Interview with Todd Haynes, Director

Article excerpt

Three years ago, writer-director Todd Haynes found himself depressed and burned out from the life in New York City he had known for the last 15 years.

"I never found a really comfortable setting for my life there," he recalls. For most of his time in the city, Haynes hadn't even fully unpacked, and his possessions collected in boxes.

As he gained prominence as a filmmaker with the critically acclaimed "Safe" and "Velvet Goldmine," Haynes recalls, "I just started to feel reduced by that experience. Every time I left my apartment, that's what I was to friends and strangers, and I didn't know where to go for something else."

It turns out the something else that Haynes sought was in Portland, Ore., where the filmmaker first went to write a script (his sister lives there), and he wound up staying.

"This place engendered a real change in me," says Haynes, clad comfortably in a vintage shirt. "I started to enjoy myself again."

Haynes joins Gus Van Sant, who recently moved back to Portland after a brief stay in New York, as the city's most famous filmmaking emigres.

Born and raised in the Los Angeles area, Haynes says relocating to outside America's traditional entertainment capitals has helped bring a new perspective to his work.

Ironically, though, the movie that resulted is the independent filmmaker's closest in spirit to Hollywood - albeit one that exists only in the past.

"Far From Heaven," opening in theaters Nov. 8, is a melodrama set in the prim-and-proper 1950s, about an upper-middle-class Connecticut housewife (Julianne Moore) who, upon discovering her husband (Dennis Quaid) is a closeted homosexual, confides in her African-American gardener, much to the chagrin of her gossiping community.

Haynes's film recalls director Douglas Sirk's Hollywood work of the 1950s with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman, such as "All That Heaven Allows" and "Magnificent Obsession."

At the time, these were referred to as "women's pictures," and proved very popular. Although Sirk's pictures have today gained greater critical praise than upon their initial release, that genre has largely died out.

"The hardest thing about getting this film made was simply that it's about a woman who's not being played by Julia Roberts," recounts Haynes. "I actually think it'd be easier to get a film made about a woman in the '50s than it is today."

What Haynes could do that filmmakers of the 1950s couldn't, however, is explore themes like homosexuality and interracial romance in a melodramatic context with a sincere, non-satiric approach.

"Far From Heaven" follows 1995's "Safe" as Haynes's second collaboration with Julianne Moore, for whom the lead role was specifically written. …

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