Cinema and Media Studies Todd Haynes
by
Ruth Goldberg
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 January 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0146

Introduction

Born in Los Angeles, California, on 2 January 1961, Todd Haynes is one of America’s most important and original independent film directors. Haynes grew up in Southern California and studied semiotics at Brown University, where he began to experiment with film in the 1980s. He later went on to attend the MFA program in film at Bard College, where he directed Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987), the first of several of his films to spark a unique combination of critical acclaim, cult following, and legal controversy. He is known for his bold experimentation with form, repeatedly demonstrating his strongly held belief that content is not the sole defining characteristic of Queer Cinema. His innovative, lush, and often unsettling films have tended to explore themes of alienation, identity, celebrity, fandom, and the pathology of suburban life in the United States. Haynes’s work has been the subject of sustained academic interest among scholars who work on the topics of Queer Cinema and American independent film. To date, Haynes has written and directed two short films, five feature films, and one television miniseries.

Overviews

In these essays that analyze trends in Haynes’s work over time, several authors focus on exploring and defining Haynes’s cinematic influences and signature techniques (Paletz 2009, Hawkins 2007). Doane 2004 examines Haynes’s subjective use of the camera and the centrality of “pathos” in his films. Uhlich 2002 identifies a set of “keys to understanding” Haynes’s difficult films. DeAngelis 2004 and DeAngelis 2008 looks at Haynes’s contribution to New Queer Cinema. Çakirlar 2011 looks at Haynes’s consistent and particular use of pastiche in the context of New Queer Cinema.

  • Çakirlar, Cüneyt. “Cinephilic Bodies: Todd Haynes’ Cinema of Queer Pastiche.” Kult 1.1 (2011): 162–200.

    E-mail Citation »

    Çakirlar has produced an erudite, detailed analysis of Haynes’s work in its historical and aesthetic context. This would be a very useful article for undergraduates.

  • DeAngelis, Michael. “The Characteristics of New Queer Filmmaking: Case Study: Todd Haynes.” In New Queer Cinema: A Critical Reader. Edited by Michele Aaron, 41–51. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004.

    E-mail Citation »

    In this well-written article, DeAngelis discusses Haynes’s tendency to queer mainstream heterosexual narratives and subvert narrative conventions, as part of his unique contribution to New Queer Cinema.

  • DeAngelis, Michael. “Todd Haynes and Queer Authorship.” In Auteurs and Authorship: A Film Reader. Edited by Barry Keith Grant, 292–304. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

    E-mail Citation »

    DeAngelis has updated his earlier essay on Todd Haynes’s position within the New Queer Cinema (DeAngelis 2004) to include a thorough discussion of Far from Heaven (2002).

  • Doane, Mary Ann. “Pathos and Pathology: The Cinema of Todd Haynes.” Camera Obscura 19.3 (September 2004): 1–21.

    DOI: 10.1215/02705346-19-3_57-1E-mail Citation »

    Doane delivers an elegant and incisive overview of Haynes’s work with attention to his subjective use of the camera, the centrality of “pathos” to the emotional experience of watching his films, and the themes and preoccupations that recur throughout his work. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Hawkins, Joan. “The Sleazy Pedigree of Todd Haynes.” In Sleaze Artists: Cinema at the Margins of Taste, Style, and Politics. Edited by Jeffrey Sconce, 189–218. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.

    E-mail Citation »

    Hawkins discusses Haynes’s many pervasive influences, including Jean Genet, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and others in a wide range of his films.

  • Paletz, Gabriel M. “Cultural Potential and the Cause of the Auteur.” Film International 7.37 (2009): 83–86.

    E-mail Citation »

    Paletz gives an overview of the mid-career retrospective of Haynes’s work at the Sarajevo International Film Festival, with discussions of Haynes’s influences, preoccupations, techniques, and signature styles. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Uhlich, Keith. “Todd Haynes.” Senses of Cinema 21 (2002).

    E-mail Citation »

    Uhlich provides a useful analysis of the “keys to understanding” Haynes’s complex work, its difficult thematic content, and its intricate formal narrative strategies.

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