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Holiday Film Viewing "The Danish Girl" and "Carol"

Among the films playing at the Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland Heights are "The Danish Girl" and "Carol" which both deal with LGBT related issues and well worth the time of prospective viewers. We particularly liked "The Danish Girl" which is a fictionalized account of Lili Elbe, one of the first known people to undergo sex reassignment surgery. It stars Eddie Redmayne (who deservedly won last year's Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything") who plays Einar Wegener, a landscape artist who is struggling to understand his true identity and the transition that he undergoes to become Lili Elbe. A large part of the film is devoted to exploring Einar/Lili's relationship with his/her beloved wife, portrait artist Gerda Wegener (played by Alicia Vikander) and the tortuous medical procedure that Einar/Lili chooses to undergo. Set in Copenhagen in the 1920's, "The Danish Girl" makes for very powerful, gut-wrenching viewing mostly because we really come to care about Einar/Lili and Gerda and want the best for them. Even though the film ends on a sad note we are moved instead of depressed because, during the course of the film, we have really come to admire these people for ability to come to terms with themselves and respect the decisions that they make. This is in no small part due to the bold direction of Mr. Tom Hooper (who did "The King's Speech" and "Les Miserables"); the sensitive instead of sudsy screenplay of Ms. Lucinda Coxon; and, above all, the wonderful performances of Mr. Redmayne and Ms. Vikander. Jumping forward to New York in the early 1950's, "Carol" stars Ms. Cate Blanchett and Ms. Rooney Mara as two women named Carol and Therese who fall romantically in love with each other at a time when such a thing was socially unacceptable. In fact, Carol's custody fight over her daughter and her ugly exchanges with her about-to-be ex-husband reminded us about how far we have come. Nevertheless, Carol and Therese choose to move forward with their relationship despite most of the outside factors working against them. Based on a novel by Ms. Patricia Highsmith (who also wrote "Strangers on a Train" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley")which was first published in 1952, this film was in development for 11 years before it was finally made and we think the results were worth the work and the wait because the filmmakers have presented us with a penetrating look at the morals and lifestyle of the United States back in the 1950's. "Carol" could have been a mere tearjerker (aka what was once known as a "woman's picture" or more recently as a "chick flick") but instead it is a strong, potent film that men should find meaningful as well as women. It is indeed a fitting companion piece to director Todd Haynes other film "Far from Heaven" which also dealt with homosexuality in that same time period. Of course, Ms. Blanchett is excellent (how could Cate Blanchett be bad?) and Ms. Mara (so good in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") is her equal. So, all told, "The Danish Girl" and "Carol" are both fine films set in past time periods that offer us the opportunity to spend some hours with what we believe to be courageous characters and make us appreciate the fact that even though there is still a lot of work to be done, our society has come a long way.