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No, no–not that Superstar.

Todd Haynes' Superstar

Todd Haynes’ film bio of Karen Carpenter is one of those things I’ve wanted to see ever since I first heard of it, prolly close to 20 years ago now. It was one of those films that you only ever heard about or read about because its release was suppressed for one reason or another (like, say, Fred Wiseman’s even more infamous Titicut Follies, which was banned from public screening for about 25 years and which I did finally see a number years ago, on PBS). In Superstar‘s case, Haynes used a lot of Carpenters’ music on the soundtrack without paying for it and the film presented Richard Carpenter as a self-absorbed control-freak. Oh, and Mattel prolly wasn’t too pleased, either.

‘Cause, y’see, the story of the Carpenters’ rise and fall is told with Barbie dolls.

So, for numerous reasons, the film has always been hard to see.

It wasn’t until Haynes’ new Bob Dylan-inspired film (which, although I’m not a Dylan fan, I would like to see for the narrative conceit Haynes employs to tell the tale) came out that I thought of the earlier work and a very short search was all that was needed to find it available online.

It was a pleasure to finally see it and I was somewhat surprised to see how straight Haynes plays it (Barbie dolls notwithstanding). While the Carpenters’ image was always so squeaky clean and All-Suburban-American, we get a glimpse into the psycho-emotionally dysfunctional flipside that eventually wore Karen into the ground.

→ originally published 2007-11-03


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