In Depth

Cate Blanchett's Carol wows critics at Cannes Film Festival

Tale of a risky lesbian affair in 1950s America tipped for Cannes glory after rave reviews

Critics at Cannes have lavished praise on Cate Blanchett's latest film, Carol, about an illicit lesbian affair and also starring Rooney Mara. Blanchett received special mention for her performance as a glamorous married socialite who risks personal and social ruin to begin a relationship with a naive shopgirl played by Mara.

Directed by Todd Haynes, Carol is based on the 1952 novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, best known as the author of The Talented Mr Ripley.

The novel examines the pressures of living a sexual double life in postwar America. It is viewed as a companion piece to Haynes' 2002 film Far From Heaven, about an illicit romance between a white woman and a black man, also set in the 1950s.

Blanchett has denied media speculation that she drew on her own experience of lesbian relationships to create the role, reports the Daily Telegraph. Although the actress added: "In 2015, the point should be 'who cares?'"

She insisted that she had not had sexual encounters with women in the past, despite previously telling a magazine she had had "many" relationships with people of her own sex. Blanchett went on to say: "We're living in deeply conservative times."

Commentators have suggested Blanchett's film could be in line for Cannes top prize, the Palme d'Or, after it received rave reviews at the festival. The Australian actress already has two acting Oscars under her belt for The Aviator and Blue Jasmine.

In Variety, Justin Chang describes Blanchett as "incandescent" in her role, and praises Haynes for a film of "supreme intelligence, breathtaking poise and film-making craft of the most sophisticated yet accessible order".

On movie website Indiewire, Jessica Kiang writes that Carol is "a love story that starts at a trickle, swells gradually to a torrent, and finally bursts the banks of your heart". The story has the potential to be a "wildly melodramatic-weepie", admits Kiang, but she says Haynes's "restraint" makes the story feel "timeless and universal".

Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian gives Carol five stars, calling it "a creamily sensuous, richly observed piece of work", full of "intoxicating" period detail.

Perhaps the only reservation about the film comes from Screen Daily's Tim Grierson, who describes Carol as "stately, evocative, confident filmmaking", but also admits that he found the film "a bit chilly".

If Carol wins a Palme d'Or, it won't be the first film with a lesbian narrative to do so, points out the BBC. In 2013 the French film Blue is the Warmest Colour, about a passionate lesbian affair between two students, won the festival's top prize. The film however met with controversy over its perceived anti-feminist tone and a dispute between the male director and the female stars.

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