"Ingrid Bergman - In Her Own Words" could just as well been in competition because the documentary is that good. It highlights the work of a woman that dedicated her life to film Though she was a phenomenal artist so little is out there about her life on film. The marginalization of women at the festival is one of the issues that Cannes has been criticized for and the need to address this is real and immediate. Even Ingrid Bergman experienced the same diminishment of roles when she was no longer a young ingénue.
Most of the film is found footage from newsreels but also footage of the home movies that Ingrid and her family made during her years in Hollywood, Italy, Sweden and London. The assemblage by Dominika Daubenbüchel is extraordinary and the editing of this footage is brilliant. Above all it shows that the ultra professional Ingrid Bergman gave the greatest emphasis to her children who were apart from her during her busy acting schedule.
We see Ingrid with a film camera on many occasions during the film. Her father was a photographer with an eye for mis en scène and selected costume and makeup for his portraits of Ingrid who is often in character. Ingrid lost her parents when she was very young and as far as men behind the camera, fell in love with photographer Robert Capra, and later in life married filmmakerRoberto Rossellini. She wrote to him and asked if he needed an actress who spoke English and a little French. That letter of invitation resulted in several years of marriage and the birth of three children, all of which are part of the film.Pia Lindström, her daughter by her first marriage to Petter Lindström, is also in the film.
Ingrid defied the conventions of Hollywood and never regretted the things that she did, she said, but "what she hadn’t done". As she got older, her choices for roles diminished but she still kept working. By her side throughout her career were several strong women including Irene Selznick, the wife of David O. Selznick, but in her letters to them it was always about her children. This extraordinary documentary makes you not only esteem Ingrid Bergman but also her children Pia (Lindström), Robert, Ingrid and Isabella Rossellini. All of them have her incredible charm and intelligence. In many ways Ingrid never lost her Swedish roots and when working in the garden, raking leaves and pushing a wheelbarrow, the tall Ingrid Bergman remained down to earth. She worked with great directors, but although she could not control what was said about her abroad and in Sweden, in her own life she made her own images.
Todd Haynes "Carol" is at the top of the list for Anglo-American critics at Cannes but it is not a top runner for Francophiles. The biopic is artistically executed with soft filters and props from the 50's but many look like they were acquired for the movie from antique shops and do not have that fresh look that newly acquired possessions should really have. The narrative is a haunting one that touches on homophobia in the 1950s based on Patricia Highsmith's intriguing title, "The Price of Salt" (1952). 'Out' lesbians at the time were only known to each other and their private circles, and met in secret clubs.
Carol (Cate Blanchett) and her lover Therese (Rooney Mara) are both heterosexual women trapped in aimless or loveless relationships that do not inspire them. This lack of belonging and accountability is not about two women just having an intrepid affair for although they are surrounded by men throughout the film, their affinity lies with each other. This is a hard concept for many and witchhunts and claims of immorality are the results of not getting it. Leaving a man for a woman is an affront to how society has been calibrated. When Therese is asked if she is a lesbian, she adamantly denies it, so powerful is the taboo.
Cate Blanchett, producer of the film, gives one of her best performances to date. Carol is the kind of mythical creature who is clearly in a vulnerable position but does not want to put her feelings into words. Therese wants to ask her questions and eventually Carol lets her. Therese's inward intensity at the prospect of this relationship is comprised of an entourage of penetrating stares. Their relationship commands the film and is the backbone of the narrative arch that compels spectators to listen to their dialogue while off handedly taking note of the makeup, costumes, appliances, shop fronts, automobiles, and furnishings of the time.
Ultimately, Todd Haynes requires viewers to surrender to the love story. On the final days of the Cannes screenings, crowds swarmed to stand in block long queues with the high critical ratings, but it is not altogether clear that they were there to witness the silent rampages of homophobia that is part of the film's message or to watch two women in love that is still a voyeuristic thrill. There is also the time honored clever Weinstein & Co schematic involved in pushing a film like this at the box office and for awards shows. For Cannes, narratives about lesbians have been hugely successful such as Palme d'Or winner La Vie d'Adéle (2013) and Haynes is contending for the award this year.
Todd Haynes has put a lesbian relationship up front and in doing so watches to see if the two women in the relationship put it first too. They always have men to rely on and it is somewhat contrived that they are constantly being hit on so that they are (we are) absolutely sure of their choices. Therese notices other lesbians but in her upwardly mobile New Yorker wardrobe does not look like one of them. The elegant Fifth Avenue dressed Carol has had other lovers and one since she was a child (Abby -Sarah Paulson) that stands up for her as far as female bonding. But other than their affair, Carol and Therese have a hard time finding each other and making it stick. Their professional energies which involve retail buying,and doing photography for the "New York Times" seem like distractions. Their real job is each other. Therese gets an expensive camera from Carol and in turn gives her a Billy Holliday record. Materialism is a large part of this film. Will they eventually wind up sharing an uptown flat in Manhattan? How could they not?
Patricia Highsmith's novels have been put to film before. Matt Damon's Tom Ripley in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999) is far from the outwardly gay character that Carol seems to be. Todd Haynes has decided to make a proper claim to Highsmith's character's sexuality and lifestyle. It seems to work better with lesbians who have discarded their male suitors than for gay serial murderers.
"Carol" should do well because of the star wattage of Blanchett and Mara who command every scene they are in. In the end we are left with a stylistic mis en scène furnished with all the appropriate items of the time and a love story that is made totally believable by the actors. This is the kind of film that dreams are made of and the love story enchants. Unlike their characters, Blanchett and Mara are not only make believe. At the Cannes photo shoot both actresses had their hands on Todd Haynes rear end. Cate Blanchett made it clear that she had many women friends, but no lovers, a question on many journalists' minds at Cannes.