Cate Blanchett denies lesbian affairs as her film Carol wows Cannes

Australian actress Cate Blanchett arrives for the screening of Carol during the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival in France on May 17, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
Australian actress Cate Blanchett arrives for the screening of Carol during the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival in France on May 17, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA

CANNES (Reuters) - Cate Blanchett denied on Sunday a report she had had affairs with women as the Cannes Film Festival swooned over her portrayal of a wealthy married woman who falls in love with an ambitious shopgirl in director Todd Haynes's Carol.

The film, which has won rave reviews from critics and audiences, shows Blanchett's title character and Rooney Mara as the shopgirl Therese Belivet having an affair that includes making love in a motel "presidential suite".

Blanchett at a news conference was quick to contradict the published version of an interview she gave to the trade publication Variety in which she seemed to say she brought personal experience of affairs with women to the role. "From memory, the conversation ran, 'Have you had relationships with women?' And I said, 'Yes, many times. If you mean I've had sexual relationships with them, the answer is 'No'- but that obviously didn't make it to print," the Australian actress and mother of four children said. "But in 2015, the point should be: Who cares?" she added.

Carol follows hard on the heels of the graphic lesbian romance Blue Is The Warmest Colour, which won Cannes's top Palme d'Or prize two years ago.

Haynes's gorgeously photographed and sensitively plotted film is distinctly less racy but hugely sympathetic to the relationship of two women who fall in love when they set eyes on each other in a store at Christmas time.

Towards the end, when Carol is facing a choice between losing her lover and losing custody of her daughter, because of her supposedly bad moral character, she tells her husband and a roomful of lawyers she will not go against her nature.

The film is based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, who also wrote The Talented Mr Ripley, but which she penned under a pseudonym because of the taboo subject matter. "It was the first sort of lesbian story that had a happy ending," said Blanchett, who added that she had read several lesbian-themed novels to research her character.

The film uses Cincinnati as a stand-in for 1950s New York City and tries, as Haynes put it, to capture the "murky and maybe also morally murky time and place" of early 1950s post-war America.

It is in part a tribute to the 1945 David Lean film A Brief Encounter, about a married woman having an affair with a stranger she meets at a railway station, Haynes said, with both films opening and closing with almost identical scenes. Carol begins and ends with a scene of Carol and Therese having coffee at a posh hotel. Both sequences are meant to be the same time and place, but the viewer has now seen how the affair developed and the scene takes on a different meaning.