The Beguiled (2017)
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The 1971 version is directed by Don Siegel, the third of his five collaborations with Clint Eastwood, who plays the Yankee Corporal John McBurney, and is discovered by a 12-year-old Amy (Ferdin, an absorbing talent), to whom he indulges with a peck on her lips, a blatant way to take away a child's first kiss (also pretty provocative by today's regressive yardstick), instantly, what Siegel hammers home to viewers is that he is not a humdinger, and through glimpses of fleeting flashback interleaved into the narrative, John emerges as a congenital liar, flippant and manipulative, currying favor from his petticoat accompany to slough from a possible fall of incarceration, whether it is Miss Marsha (Page), the headmistress of the seminary school, Edwina (Hartman), the virginal teacher to whom he claims his attraction, a nubile 17-year-old student Carol (Ann Harris), who is sexually active, even the slave Hallie (Mercer, a defiant soul hampered by her identity), cannot evade his come-ons.
The advent of a hot-blooded albeit bedridden male inevitably causes an erotic disruption among the exclusive distaff clique, whose members are circumspectly secluded from the battlefield merely outside their perimeter and sexually repressed, for pert, callow girls, they are inclined to project John as a perfect specimen of their untested sexual allure versus the opposite sex, in the cases of Edwina and Carol, one is the prudish committed type and the other is a wanton nymphet. But the most complex character amongst them is no doubt Miss Marsha, whose incest past and subliminal lesbian proclivity get a full treatment in the audacious script and visual presentation, the latter is even coalesced with a flagrant religious connotation to soup up the film's maverick idiom. When the crunches arrives, a man's conceit in his potency is punished by blunt castration and signifies a rude awakening of the priapic worship.
On top of his virile stallion credence, Clint Eastwood imbues a cunning, almost overweening facade which audience isn't familiar with, not cut from the same cloth from his hard-boiled tough-guy legend. Geraldine Page, emboldened by her matriarchal gravitas and demanding onus, doesn't shy away from any extraneous intrusion (the Union and the Confederacy alike) and builds a palpably beguiling tension through the mind games she plays with Eastwood yet holds the rein from stem to stern in unyielding resolution of taking the escalating situation in her own hands. Elizabeth Hartman, the fragile Oscar-nominated actress whose premature demise was a harrowing tragedy ripe for cinematic transposition, brings about something equally tangible and visceral as she is bedeviled by the discord between a man's promise and his action, but still holds out the last remaining benevolence out of her own impressionable nature.
Crowned BEST DIRECTOR in Cannes, Sofia Coppola's remake is an aesthetically beguiling psychological intrigue, superbly recreates a mystical Gothic quaintness in the closing days of the civil war entrapped within the terrain of a majestic mansion of the antebellum south, which certainly is a scintillating upgrade from the 1971 version's sepia retro flair.
But story-wise, Sofia's script not only eviscerates the role of Hallie (which is a double-edged sword since she claims that out of the respect of this sensitive issue, she doesn't want to tread lightly, but also can be easily accused of racially insensitive), but also leaves no allusions of all the taboo issues tackled in Siegel's movie, lesbian kiss, incest depravity and of course, that inappropriate kiss between a grown-up man and a teenage girl, are outright sanitized, and in fact, the whole story has been strenuously internalized, for instance, John's transgression, where is given a plausible justification in Siegel's film, is carried out in a slipshod manner, indicating that it is nothing less than a spur of horniness.
Atmospherical over dramatic, it is beyond reproach that Coppola opts to tell the allegory with her own agent, but unfortunately, the resultant impact doesn't meet up with expectation, especially when juxtaposed with its far more entrancing antecedent. Nicole Kidman intrepidly takes the mantle from Ms. Page, and actualizes an extremely sensual sponge-washing scene with Colin Farrell's less forthcoming and more sympathetic portrayal of a soldier turns paraplegic when he is subjected to an ambiguous retribution out of the necessity of saving his life. Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning don't make a splash in the shoes of Hartman and Ann Harris respectively, save Oona Laurence, whose Amy, precisely captures a child's malleable mentality.
So, the jury is out, the remake is humbled by the original, which is quite a shocker because on the paper, Coppola's feminine sensitivity seems to be more adept to parse this age-old gender axe battle than an action-inclined Mr. Siegel, again there is no sure thing in the film industry, and that is exactly why it keeps us intrigued every time.
Sofia took a simple story of love-starved ladies and adolescent girls alone with a handsome scoundrel who uses and abuses them until they turn the tables on him, and won an award for changing it into a confusing, dull, illogical mess of a movie with some pretty scenic views scattered here and there. Apparently this story was supposed to be told from the women's point of view, but there was no point at all.
There is also no point in viewing this film, so stick with the original.
There is some decent acting here from the cast, but I found it nearly impossible to see any detail in their faces due to the choice of shooting in very low light or artificially creating the effect in post. While I can't place blame entirely on the film as our local theater may have had issues with their projection system. Still, I prefer to see the expressions in actor's faces, otherwise I might as well be listening to a radio play.
The film could have been a full stop brighter and adding some fill light on the faces still would have allowed the look to be dark and drab as it was apparently intended.
By the time we get to the third act we still aren't rooting for our protagonist and frankly it's not completely clear until the climax that it's supposed to be Kidman's character. The editing is unimpressive.
This remake of "The Beguiled" isn't anything special. I suspect the jurors who awarded Coppola "Cannes Best Director Award" must have not have seen the film. For me it was best summed up by a phrase I overheard by a nearby audience member, "Is that it?". Yes... I'm afraid so.
The original 1971 movie is an interesting claustrophobic Gothic thriller set against the backdrop of the brutally divisive American Civil War. The original movie initially juxtaposes the caring females who rescue the dying soldier and nurse him back to health (despite him being the enemy), against the typically male scheming, conniving (and ultimately violent) persona of the soldier who sets about seducing his way to domination. The movie then subverts the narrative with the manipulative behaviour of the jealous women and their ultimate act of revenge brought about by his own arrogant assumptions of male superiority. Hardly any of this is present in this remake. Furthermore, the sexual tensions of the original movie with its disturbing take on incest, predatory underage sex and the destructive jealousy between the principal and the unmarried teacher which eventually leads to the wounded soldier's demise was almost completely absent from the Coppola movie. In addition, the new movie also removed the black slave character and in so doing a whole subtext concerning white male exploitation of black women and overall black subjugation by both the Confederate and Union armies was lost.
The Coppola movie never really gets going and the removal of all of the backstories left the viewer with no idea of why the characters were behaving in the way they did. As many other reviewers here have said it makes for a boring turgid evening. Mercifully it was only 90 minutes long.
Viewed through modern eyes,the the 1971 film is a bit clunky but the Coppola movie is so thin by comparison. It really does beg the question of why bother to make it unless you can improve on the original.
The coach put me on the bench because I'm batting double OO with movies, the last string of films I viewed All Eyez on Me, Transformers:The Last Knight and 40 Meters Down, were side-eye inducing without a doubt. But this weekend I saw the new Sofia Coppola film "The Beguiled", which is based on the 1971 film of the same name starring Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page. Before I go all IN on the film, here's a little tidbit about Coppola. She just won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and is only the 2nd woman in Cannes history to win in that category. Let that sink in for a minute. Now getting back to this film. Out of the gate, the pacing was extremely slow. So much so, that I actually started looking for which exit I could get to the quickest. But I'm a trooper, so I hung in there.
None of the characters were fleshed out, especially Kirsten Dunst and Nicole Kidman's caricatures of repressed southern belles. By the way, Kidman, Dunst, Elle Fanning and one other character in this meandering nonsensical film, kept losing their southern accents. I could have understood better if this were their first film (nervousness and all), but Kidman is an Oscar winner, Dunst and Fanning have over the years, gotten critical acclaim for their acting. They simply phoned in their performances and looked as if they couldn't have cared any less if they tried. Now let's get to Colin Farrell.
His once promising career really hit an all-time low with this schlock. He hardly had any dialogue and the dialogue he had, was comical and it wasn't supposed to be. THAT'S how bad this film is. His best scenes were off-screen after Kidman's character amputated his leg and he found out. Why Coppola chose for the audience to hear his tirade instead of seeing it, was puzzling to say the least. That probably would have been great to see because Farrell is a good actor and he does a lot of his best work when he's in meltdown on-screen. Coppola's choices with how she shot this film left me and I'm sure so many others who've already seen it, wondering WHY? But here's one choice she made I'm in full support of the choice to NOT put the female slave character in this film that was in the book. The Black actress who would have been cast, dodged a bullet thank goodness. No one needs this incarnation of The Beguiled on their acting resume. The long and short of it is basically The Beguiled didn't make any sense at all. It was a story without any substance or direction. How Coppola won in Cannes in the Best Director's category for THIS film is another mystery. To say The Beguiled wasn't her best work is an understatement, and it also begs to question the legitimacy of her winning that award.
Coppola has done tons of applause worthy work such as Marie Antoinette, The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation, did the judges in Cannes see the same film as the rest of us? Did they get their eyes dilated that day and couldn't really see the banality of this film .what happened? As one critic noted about the film "it was so unnecessary" and no truer words could EVER be said about this film. This was a good idea gone horribly wrong and Coppola, the writers who helped her create this puerile piece of tripe and the actors, had no clue how to make this film compelling enough to where it would hold your attention and the audience would become emotionally invested. Instead, it had the audience holding their breath counting the minutes until the agony was over.
The entire 93 minutes seem sunk in impenetrable dark mists inside and out. Gothic? Fairy tale? Hard to decide. Actors seem to move around as subjects in a tableau of stylized Victorian portraits, their roles seem interchangeable. Handsome Colin Farrell hardly seemed worth the group effort.
Nothing emotionally charged, not much going on at Miss Martha's School except a bit of sewing, foraging for mushrooms, French verbs, dressing for dinner, more sewing. One could see why these gals were left alone during the War for Southern Independence. Even the wine couldn't stir up any heat or light.
When I watch a film I think is good or successful in some way, I don't necessarily think back to its themes or what it was trying to tell me. I feel it and it doesn't need to be something explicit I check off. But it's definitely noticeable when you feel absolutely nothing for a film. I am utterly at a loss as to what the point of The Beguiled was. What was it trying to say? What were its themes? Jessica Chastain's comment at Cannes must have been directed towards this in particular, because it proves that a film starring several women does not mean it has any feminist themes whatsoever. The Beguiled comes across as very hateful and sexist in general, painting no gender in any positive light and definitely portraying women in a very negative way. It's a period film, sure, but what was its intention? What was it trying to say? Did it really just go over my head? As far as I'm concerned, it's absolute trash. Not only is it problematic, the filmmaking isn't even that good either. There are some nice shots here and there, but much of the cinematography is awkward and unambitious and the editing pretty disjointed. As for the performances? Colin Farrell was pretty terrible in the third act, and while Dunst, Fanning, and Kidman weren't bad, their characters didn't allow them to be anything of note. I am particularly shocked at the buzz for Kidman. She did absolutely nothing of worth.
I'm not asking for a film to be explicit in its themes or character intentions. This film wasn't even ambiguous in any sort of way. The character arcs (if you can call them that) were wholly unsatisfying. 90 minutes later and I still wasn't sure who these people were. More than anything, the film didn't know what it wanted to be. If it wanted to be an art-house drama, it failed. At least had it become an entirely trashy thriller it may have been more enjoyable. The filmmaking is mediocre, the storyline dull, and the implications very problematic.
Since I know there are people who liked it, I really am just wondering if anyone would be kind enough to post why they liked it. What did I miss? How was this film even conceived and remade? What was its point? I haven't been so surprised and disappointed by a film in years, and it's shocking to me that this was made by the same person that made The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation. I guess I am more inclined than ever to read its positive reviews. More than wondering how anyone could find it enjoyable and all that (which is a very subjective opinion), I really want to understand how this could be anything other than completely sexist.
The storyline is uncomplicated. A wounded Union mercenary Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell) is found in the woods by a young pupil of a nearby prestigious girls school. She helps him limp to the school where the headmistress Miss Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) agrees out of Christian kindness to provide shelter from the Confederates. The slave servants have fled and the Civil War rages, but the school stays open for a handful of orphaned girls. McBurney knows that his charm and seduction skills are vital to his survival as he smirks privately at having landed in a crinoline paradise compared to the battle outside. The ladies are aflutter at his presence and an atmosphere of repressed sexuality and jealousy simmer below the surface. But he is too clever for his own Irish charm as he tries to worm his way into too many beds. When caught out for his duplicity, the sweet angels of charity exact their revenge.
With a story rich in narrative potential and star-power like Kidman, Farrell and Fanning, you might expect a delicious thriller melodrama with characters of depth, complexity and nuance. But instead we find a flat narrative with two-dimensional caricatures devoid of emotional expression. Apart from McBurney's angry outburst at having been thwarted by a mere handful of women, nobody in this film seems to feel anything more urgent than how the plates might be arranged for dinner. Piques of jealousy, fear, passion, feminist rage? – none of seems to have made the final cut. Perhaps it's a Gothic affectation that upper-class Southern ladies enjoy French grammar and music lessons accompanied by exploding cannonballs. Whenever there is hope for an exciting narrative twist, the ladies spontaneously assemble for a posed composition of exquisite elegance and formality as if beckoned by a painter for a portrait sitting. Seeing this the first time is a visual delight; seeing it multiple times displays a level of artifice that distracts from an already slow narrative. Gothic atmosphere is usually full of tension but here it's more about smoky mists and mood lighting that varies between dark, darker and darkest. What could have been offered as a triumphantly gruesome finale is instead played out as deadpan politeness in a sewing lesson for once rich young white ladies.
Opinions differ widely about this film. Some will have seen the 1971 version or read the source novel, others of course will see it cold. Perhaps it is meant to be a deliberately restrained feminist Gothic noir interpretation. However, despite its high-quality inputs this film is more about form than substance. It has not risen to its potential.
The film is almost totally bland in every way. There is virtually no music or camera movement and in a story that takes place largely in confined spaces this is a deadly choice.
It generates no momentum as it goes on and on....
Coppola has no feel for the material and key changes from the original leave plot holes--or if you prefer character motivation holes.
If you've never seen the excellent original film the basic story, even in this watered down version, could hold your interest, but it better because this is a very polite version of a story that is far from polite. She leaves out the slave character from the book and original film and this is a mistake, all the mistakes like this seem to be for the same kind of reason for fear of the film being about racism or about sexual attraction and danger or about war and what it does to people. For fear of the film being about anything that might offend anyone.
So she spends her time in dimly lit interiors with mostly very polite low toned interactions between people and a music score this is a short collection of drones that seem like music left out of some 80's horror movie score.
The movie manages to have no point of view, no central character and so it's just hard to care.
This is being sold as a thriller and she certainly has no feel for that, the best shots in the movie are some moody southern hanging vines and such,but when she rarely goes in for a shot of anything other than a bland medium to long shot it seems for little purpose.
She seems afraid to break an egg to make an omelet is one way to look at it. The actors seem like they'd like to break out and get into the movie but she refused to let them. Now is this a matter of editing--where to bring the length down key things got left out--perhaps, as some scenes seem to have no connection emotionally for the people in them. Someone will be enraged, then in the next scene perfectly calm as if nothing happened.
Or is it in some failed attempt to do something different than the original. Problem with this is when there is some perfect choice already done well then what do have you as options? Less good choices or just no choice is what the do here.
If she wanted to make a film of the novel she hasn't, as the book is told from different characters perspectives this could have made for an interesting, who is really seeing the truth type of film. If that was done you could see that one girl thinks the soldier is just trying to exploit them for his advantage--sexual and or otherwise, while another girl might seem him as friendly and haplessly driven by extremes of the head mistress.
This element exists to a small degree in the original film but here it's nowhere to be seen.
The film feels and mostly looks like a watered down shot on video rather cheap TV production from 30 years ago, made by people who don't care much for the story but are doing it because it's something to do and let's just get it done with as little fuss as we can.
A waste of time.
An isolated group of women in the movie represents a slice of society, while Colin Farrell, an outsider, who is simply struggling to find his place within it. The outsider is condemned for putting an act, but nobody says or does anything that reflects true feelings. Nothing comes from a genuine respect for another human being. False pretenses and masquerading based on flattery is the only way the characters communicate and stay together. And unfortunately, the only way we know. The only time we see their true colors is during paroxysms of rage, outbursts of lust, hatred and jealousy. But as long as the ugliness is hidden under the veneer of a civilized decorum, it is considered all right by the majority.
Jealousy or repressed sexual desires is just what we see on the surface. All the inner mechanics of their behavior are driven by the fear of a misstep in the eyes of the polite society. The morality they know teaches them to never question the rules and never step out of the dogma-ruled world. Rules like 'keep your stitches even," shield them from facing real moral dilemmas.
The unfolding drama is depicting how morality, which it's just a set of rules established by a self-proclaimed civilized society, has replaced all spiritual concepts. Morality, as a set of standards, is bent and stretched without mercy. Anything is possible for the sake of appearances and propriety. Those who dare to break those pretensions are ostracized, banished or simply discarded.
Sofia Coppola showed the modern world slipping further down into the abyss of hypocrisy, when almost everyone fails to stay true to oneself, twists "morality" as one pleases and values what's proper over what's right.
The tension between characters felt nothing but awkward and as if they didn't want to act together let alone build sexual tension.
The wide screen views of trees and the garden where a highlight in the movie, however did not understand the role they were to play in the movie.
The happiest and redeeming feature was that I had free tickets!
I also no longer trust the official critics which I relied upon. Internet community has overwhelming win my respect in forming an opinion on movies. Critics have gone to far.
The trailers had me thinking there was going to be a Misery slant to the film, with Nicole Kidman playing a civil war version of Annie Wilkes, but that was completely misrepresented. It is a plodding story that lacks intrigue and and any realistic character motivations. You'd honestly think these women had never seen a man before with how taken they are by him. Since the basis of the story is this already-flimsy premise, it has no hope of building from there.
The ensemble does a serviceable job with their performances, but they didn't get me interested in them individually. The size of the cast, while already relatively small, should have been pared down even further. Three of the students are all but interchangeable, so merging them into a single character would have allowed me to get more invested in the group overall.
It really can't be overstated how much this movie spins its wheels. Over an hour is focused on waiting for a leg to heal and watching characters from age 8 to 48 throw themselves at the injured party. We are then served a thrown together final act that is void of reason.
I had high hopes for this film, but ultimately came away disappointed. Farrell and Dunst, combined with the overall esthetic, brought the score higher than it would have been otherwise, but when you're that far down, really the only way to go is up. 4/10.