The films of Todd Haynes are at once subversive and sleek. They feature glamorous movie stars, unfold in immaculate domestic spaces, and unfurl with seductive, pleasurable rhythms, yet raise provocative questions about politics, psychology, and pop culture. Haynes, who studied semiotics at Brown, gained notoriety early in his career with a Barbie-doll deconstruction of the life of Karen Carpenter (Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story). His debut feature, the New Queer Cinema milestone Poison, came under fire from the American Family Association sight unseen. A bold iconoclast, he is also a canny updater of directors like Max Ophüls, John M. Stahl, and Douglas Sirk. But his films—more than theoretical treatises or referential grab bags—are richly textured, emotionally astute, and grounded in specific, tumultuous moments in American history.

Since Haynes’s 1995 breakthrough, Safe, an ominous illness drama anchored by an extraordinary Julianne Moore, this most unpredictable of major American filmmakers has made two fractured, inside-out studies of iconic rock stars (Velvet Goldmine deals with the knotty legacy of David Bowie; I’m Not There, with that of Bob Dylan) and two magisterial updates of the Hollywood melodrama centered on women who defy rigid social orders (Far from Heaven and the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce). His latest, Carol, an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s pioneering lesbian-themed romance novel The Price of Salt, is one of his boldest films, and perhaps his most moving to date. The Film Society is proud to present this comprehensive survey of Haynes’s deeply influential body of work, supplemented by a selection of his own influences: each title is paired with a film—chosen by the director himself—that informed it in some way.

Killer Films, which Haynes’s fearless producer Christine Vachon founded in the mid-’90s, has been getting risky, forward-thinking films made for two decades. Since helping launch the New Queer Cinema—she produced Poison and Tom Kalin’s Swoon, another landmark film in the movement, before she had a company to her name—and joining forces with Pamela Koffler and Katie Roumel, Vachon has taken on a remarkable roster of movies: Boys Don’t Cry, One Hour Photo, Kids, Happiness, Postcards from America, Go Fish. This special screening of two of the company’s most epochal films celebrates their ongoing efforts to clear the stage for voices marginalized, forgotten, or unheard.

Programmed by Dennis Lim