| Julianne Moore at the 59th Venice Film Festival. (Reuters) US director Todd Haynes at the 59th Venice Film Festival. (Reuters)
Washington, Sept. 2 (Reuters): Todd Haynes’ drama Far from Heaven is set in what many believe to be a long-gone era of the 1950s ruled by racial prejudice and repression, but the director says little has changed in the last half century.
The off-beat film, which stages its world premiere at the 59th Venice Film Festival, stars Julianne Moore as a perfect housewife in suburban America and Dennis Quaid as a successful businessman, whose marriage crumbles after his wife finds him passionately kissing another man.
The movie “typifies the big themes of American culture that are still unresolved from this period,” Haynes, exponent of the new queer cinema genre, said.
“It was an education about our assumptions about reality,” said the laid-back native son of Los Angeles. Haynes directed cult favourite Velvet Goldmine in 1998 about the rise and fall of a fictional glam-rock star and Poison in 1995, slammed by Right- wing critics as pornographic.
Far from Heaven starts off looking like a brightly coloured Doris Day movie but suddenly turns sour when Cathy Whitaker, played by Moore, discovers her husband with another man and then seeks solace with her Black gardener.
“It’s a very sad story that really could be told today in America, about these people who look amazing and sound amazing and move like none of us but are very fragile,” said the 41-year-old director. “They really are more like us.” The film is inspired by Hollywood’s golden era, particularly Douglas Sirk’s 1954 classic All that Heaven Allows. But Haynes’ version does not have a happy, Hollywood ending.
Cathy suddenly finds herself abandoned by her husband as he comes to terms with his sexuality, and ostracised by society for her friendship with the gardener. Moore, star of Boogie Nights, End of the Affair and Hannibal, said the film was about the loss of innocence.
“Cathy represents American optimism. Anything is possible, we can change the world. But then she stops smiling,” Moore said, adding that the emotions in the film, which was shot just weeks after the September 11 attacks on the US, were a reflection of the emotions America was experiencing. “It’s about losing illusions and becoming wiser,” she said. “There was a time after September 11 that it felt like all that optimism was over, but what has happened in the ensuing year... has showed it is possible to rebound from the event.”
Far from Heaven won a last-minute place in the 21-film competition for the Golden Lion, to be decided on September 8.
Haynes’ movie was a fill-in for The Hours, a Stephen Daldry-directed film starring Nicole Kidman as well as Moore, which was not ready on time.