“Films reflect and instruct us at the same time, and that’s strong stuff. So I do delight in the idea that by playing around, tinkering or upsetting that process of identification a little bit,” said filmmaker Todd Haynes. “A viewer has to ask the question: where’s this idea coming from? Without losing all the pleasure that’s part of that process.” And whether he’s telling a quiet psychological horror story about a woman allergic to the 20th century or a debauched look at love and 1970s glam rock, Haynes’ films share the mark of director with a very specific taste for storytelling. His work displays an affinity for taking the mundane realities of everyday existence and setting them off-kilter, over-exposing obsessions and desires that plague our lives and overcome our being.
With his work—from Safe and Velvet Goldmine to Far From Heaven and Poison—we’re given an insight into pockets of the psyche that we often leave dormant, while still hitting our emotions and giving us something beautiful and evocative. He takes socially constructed ideals of gender and sexuality and portrays the outsiders that are forced to challenge them. But for all the modernity and challenging of convention that exists in the world of his characters, in style and aesthetics he tends to fall towards the formalistic—giving us an expressive and subversive reinvention of a classic cinematic structure.
And in 1993, just after making Safe and before completing Poison, Haynes made a psychosexual take on suburban childhood with a 30-minute film—which originally appeared on PBS—titled Dottie Gets Spanked. Focusing on the erotic fascination of spanking, childhood sexuality, and repression, the short tells the story of a quiet six-year-old young boy and his obsession with a TV comedienne named Dottie. It’s a fascinating and dark 30-minute feature that truly “packs an emotional wallop.” So if you haven’t had the chance to see the short for yourself, I’d suggest heading over to UbuWeb and doing so HERE.
In the meantime, we’ll be awaiting Haynes next feature Carol, one of our most anticipated films of 2014.