Todd Haynes' biography reads as if he were an unlikely mix between Cheech Marin, John F. Kennedy Jr., and Quentin Crisp. Haynes was born in Los Angeles and educated at Brown University, where he was awarded an honors degree in Art... [more]
Todd Haynes' biography reads as if he were an unlikely mix between Cheech Marin, John F. Kennedy Jr., and Quentin Crisp. Haynes was born in Los Angeles and educated at Brown University, where he was awarded an honors degree in Art and Semiotics in 1985. He is also the first -- and possibly only -- artist to cast a crew of Barbie dolls in his first feature, an oddly sympathetic recap of the life of the twentieth century's most famous anorexic pop singer.
"Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story," was Haynes' first acclaimed production after starting Apparatus, the New York-based non-profit established to provide both financial and artistic support to emerging filmmakers. In 1991 Haynes released his second feature, "Poison," which became a cause celebre as quickly as "Superstar" had become a cult item. The NEA had partly funded the homoerotic film, and the Christian Right was up in arms.
Tensions were further aggravated by Haynes' unabashed status as a leader of the movement known as New Queer Cinema. The auteur never backed down. Instead, he went on to direct a more literal film about poison, a film entitled "Safe" in which an on-the-verge-of-famous Julianne Moore plays a well-to-do San Fernando housewife mysteriously debilitated by her seemingly antiseptic suburban environment. The symbolic parallels to the director's personal tribulations of the time seem hardly coincidental.
In 1998, Haynes' ode to glam rock and gender-bent air guitar, "Velvet Goldmine," hit the scene. Camp met "Spinal Tap" and resulted in a quirky expose of postmodern self-invention, reinvention, and the cult of Bowie. In the midst of all this creativity and conservative flutter, possibly the most compelling fact about Haynes is that everyone -- cast, crew, collaborators, Steven Spielberg, and possibly even Jesus -- seems to somehow adore him.