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  Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story Goodbye To Love
Year: 1987
Director: Todd Haynes
Stars: Gwen Kraus, Bruce Tuthill
Genre: Musical, Drama, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: In 1983, singer Karen Carpenter was found dead from causes related to the "slimming disease" anorexia nervosa. This is the story of her life.

Todd Haynes' first film, co-written with Cynthia Schneider, is a true-life, short docudrama which has all of its main characters played by Barbie and Ken dolls. Due to the use of many original Carpenters' songs on the soundtrack without permission, the film was withdrawn.

Imagine if Gerry Anderson decided to make a Karen Carpenter biography - would the result have been something like this? It even features real hands for those tricky closeups. The film packs a lot into three quarters of an hour, contrasting the duo's conservative, "smooth" music with the turmoil America was going through in the 70's with the Vietnam War and Watergate.

And there is, of course, an examination of anorexia, explaining the effects of the disease and how it affected Karen, who was under pressure from the media and her family to look thin and presentable for her public appearances. All this wears Karen down, and she develops severe psychological problems. In fact, her overbearing family don't come out of this at all well, which could be another reason the film was banned.

But how seriously are we supposed to take all this? The use of dolls gives the film a campy tone, however sincere Haynes is about his subject matter. And the dramatization of domestic scenes resembles something out of a bad soap opera, complete with corny dialogue. From some angles, Superstar looks like a sick joke.

Despite that, the film works surprisingly well, with its attacks on consumerism and use of archive footage lending an abrasiveness to the proceedings. It's obviously the work of a promising talent. Also on the soundtrack: The Captain and Tenille, Gilbert O'Sullivan and Elton John. But no "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft", unfortunately.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Todd Haynes  (1961 - )

Intriguing American arthouse writer-director whose student film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story created a big fuss, and is still banned to this day. The episodic Poison was a disappointing follow up, but Safe was heralded as a triumph. His document of glam rock, Velvet Goldmine, wasn't as well received, however Far From Heaven, a 1950's-set melodrama, was Oscar-nominated, as was the similarly-set romance Carol. In between those were an offbeat take on Bob Dylan, I'm Not There, and a miniseries of Mildred Pierce. He followed them with the apparently out of character children's story Wonderstruck.

 
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