A Simple Twist of Cate: From Dylan to Carol, Why Blanchett is so Special

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The last time Cate Blanchett collaborated with venerable filmmaker Todd Haynes, was when she embodied the role of Bob Dylan in I’m Not There. She was already an Academy Award winner by that point, having picked up the top prize at the 2005 ceremony for her performance in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator. But remarkably, she’s got even better since.

The Australian actress has since been nominated for four Academy Awards (two in one year in 2008) – and she won for the second time in 2014 for her uncompromising, tender display in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. Now, with the ceremony fast approaching, she could be line for another…

This time it’s for her performance as the eponymous protagonist in Hayne’s latest Carol, a retelling of Patricia Highsmith’s seminal novel, The Price of Salt. Carol is a married woman and mother to a young girl, though she is confined to this loveless relationship, as beneath the facade is a deeply unhappy woman, harbouring feelings for store clerk Therese Belivet, played with a stunning conviction and sincerity by Rooney Mara.

So what is it about Blanchett that makes her such an enigmatic, beguiling performer with a compelling and gracious screen presence? Perhaps it’s her unique ability to remain somewhat detached, playing a rather cold figure – much like she did with Jasmine – yet carrying such a vulnerability about her demeanour, and always endearing in spite of the fact she can keep an emotional distance from both the characters and the audience.

In Carol she’s strong-willed and assertive, but fragile and human – and it’s the latter word which is most prevalent, as the actress – no matter who she embodies – is always so naturalistic; and while it sounds like such a rudimentary skill, her lack of awareness of the camera makes her a very natural, subtle and distinctively nuanced performer.

Carol is undoubtedly one of her finest performances to date – and there’s every chance she could be taking home a third Oscar for her efforts, which may sound rather boring given her regular inclusion; but at the same time, it’s reflective of a performer who is consistently turning in accomplished, moving performances that are deserving of any such recognition. We can now only hope for a third outing with Haynes – not only for Blanchett, but for him. As something of an elusive presence in cinema, Carol shows just what a special filmmaker he is too, and his next project could not come soon enough.

Just to ensure we have a full house, Mara is also terrific, and is (somewhat unfairly) more likely to be included in the Best Supporting Actress category (unless of course, there is a shakeup this time around), but if that means that both performers can take home a mini golden statue, then so be it.

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About Stefan Pape

Stefan Pape is a film critic and interviewer who spends most of his time in dark rooms, sipping on filter coffee and becoming perilously embroiled in the lives of others. He adores the work of Billy Wilder and Woody Allen, and won’t have a bad word said against Paul Giamatti.

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