An intimate, revelatory documentary portrait of celebrated American author Patricia Highsmith.
Highsmith’s unpublished diaries lyrically intermingle with the personal accounts of people who knew and loved her. [A] heart-rending character study depicts a visionary female writer, forced to repress her innate desires.
Patricia Highsmith is rightly regarded as one of the most successful authors of practically screen-ready novels; almost all her works have been adapted for the screen, among these, Strangers on a Train (by Alfred Hitchcock, in 1951), The Talented Mr Ripley – in French and English by directors René Clément, in 1960, as Plein Soleil, and, later, in 1999, by Anthony Minghella – Ripley’s Game (adapted by Wim Wenders for his 1977 film, The American Friend) and, undeniably her most personal work, The Price of Salt, published in 1952 and republished four decades later as Carol, adapted for the screen in a 2015 film of the same name, directed by Todd Haynes and which starred Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.
Highsmith was originally published under a pseudonym (Claire Morgan) for fear of being outed as a lesbian; actor Gwendoline Christie’s measured, resonant tones give mellifluous voice to confessional insights from Highsmith’s diaries in which the author describes The Price of Salt as a “story that flowed from [her] own bones”. Despite the book’s cult status – earned in no small measure because its author ‘dared’ to write an open-ended rather than censorious ending for its closeted female protagonists – the implicit and unyielding disapproval of Highsmith's mother marked the young writer.
As soon as she was able, Highsmith ‘escaped’ to Europe; to Italy – where the sight of “a troubled-looking man” she observed at dawn from her hotel in Positano inspired the character of Tom Ripley – then on to Paris, Berlin and London – to seek out the people, places and life experiences her imagination and desires yearned for.
In its retelling of a life outwardly marked by the trappings of fame and success as a celebrated author, Eva Vitija’s intimate documentary strikes several disarmingly poignant notes, not the least of these Highsmith’s deeply held ‘sense’ that the act of writing, as she reveals in one of the archival interviews featured in the film, was “the only way to feel respectable”.
– Roberta Ciabarra; Curator, Film
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