Carrington ★★★½

1995 Cannes Film Festival (In Competition)

"I wish I wasn't so plural!"

Here we have another resolutely middlebrow UK Competition entry--this one even more so than Angels and Insects--that nonetheless challenges traditional views of sex and love. However muted in presentation, it's refreshing to see Lytton Strachey's homosexuality taken for granted by his acquaintances as well as the filmmakers without resorting to fantasy. Even more unusual is the precedence Carrington’s and his love takes over their sexual affairs. Those are doomed to end when passion subsides, as the chapter headings foreshadow (a nice addition to a tired device), but theirs is fortunate enough to avoid such trappings. There’s no hint of the tragic in their sexual incompatibility, nor is there any shame in their fidelity to each other above all. Free love is the status quo, and others can either roll with it or leave. How many films are about how to love while maintaining independence?

There’s an elegance in organizing the entire film around their relationship and its orbit, defining them as artists only by their daily rituals. Thompson and Pryce convince us of their domestic bliss without falling back on uncharacteristic displays of emotion. He’s particularly great at tossing off delicious quips with the right blend of self-pride and nonchalance (“I’m a martyr of the piles”). And despite being overused, it’s a pleasure to be graced with prime Nyman.