The Beguiled Screen 74 of 34 reviews

The Beguiled

2017

The Beguiled Poster
  • Coppola plots her plot and themes into a rhythmic repeating dance, whose mushroom-picking and formal dinner scenes recur with tense new meanings, and her direction is fluid but purposeful. Rather than employing the drifty, languid pace of her previous films, The Beguiled is concise, even taut, wrapped up in a neat 94 minutes. Yet it’s also richly textured, thanks to cinematographer Philippe Lesourd’s bleached palette and candlelit interiors.

  • I’ve long been convinced by the clichéd details of some of the deaths—the sister hanging herself while in schoolgirl attire is particularly relevant here—that there was only one death and that the men created the mythology of mass suicide as an expression of their own sexual frustration. In The Beguiled, Coppola and cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd create a look that has heavy psychological overtones.

  • Seen strictly on its own terms, Sofia Coppola’s remake of The Beguiled is an adept, mildly wicked, discreetly violent riff on the relations between men and women. Put next to the original, an overheated Clint Eastwood vehicle, directed by Don Siegel, it’s a good deal more.

  • It's a fairy tale, where beautiful spirited women and girls—flawed and filled with contradictory impulses—are locked away from the larger world (some by choice, others because they have nowhere else to go), and how a man disrupts their quiet; how much turbulence a man can bring. Gorgeously shot by Philippe Le Sourd (in his first collaboration with Coppola), "The Beguiled" lingers on its images, allows us time to settle into them.

  • Siegel’s film is punctuated by constant exposition in the form of voiceover; the women dwell on their loneliness and lust with artless declarations. But in Coppola’s film, which astonishes with its immersive ambivalence—each woman’s clipped tightness is mixed with a teetering abandon—there is no broadcasted inner voice.

  • Coppola sees the black humor and the eeriness of the story’s premise. Where Siegel played an amputation scene for over-the-top gruesomeness, Coppola does something both subtler and far more unsettling, cutting from the preparation for the operation to a burial service for the severed limb. As shot by Philippe Le Sourd, the film looks like an unholy collaboration between John Singer Sargent and Edvard Munch, a faded mansion on its way to becoming a sickroom.

  • Wisely, and refreshingly, Coppola allows us to decipher how we feel about these people with mood, style, stolen glances, and movement, often very slow – even open wounds are something to ponder as they’re sewn up and busted open (like bodices), as is the melodrama that is, in brief, stark moments, vociferous and at other times, quiet and gorgeously muted. It’s a brilliant fever dream in Coppola’s hands.

  • Coppola isn’t a minimalist, exactly, but as in “Lost in Translation” and “Somewhere,” she demonstrates an economy of form and plot that tends to get mistaken for insubstantiality. More directors could learn something from her eye for the spare, telling detail, as well as her seeming allergy to narrative bloat. In “The Beguiled,” she once again practices the fine art of narrative subtraction, this time in service of an understated yet purposeful feminist reading.

  • The film makes up for in atmosphere what it lacks in drama (though gothic developments and a wicked, dark humour take hold nearer the end). Slithers of sunlight illuminate an overgrown garden shot by Philippe Le Sourd in an impressionistic and languorous soft-focus... If Siegel’s 1971 film offers a battle of the sexes, Coppola’s 2017 update foregrounds a hard-won utopia. Together, they make for a entrancing and contrasting double-bill.

  • Coppola has made a modern feminist horror film about the dangers of not allowing your social conditioning to talk louder than your personal feelings. She grants her women enough agency to be aroused without being exclusively defined by their lust.

  • Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, playing at Cannes in competition, may be a remake of a 1971 Don Siegel revenge thriller starring Clint Eastwood, but it’s really its own hypnotic yet hardy species of flora, a daylily crossed with a twisted root vegetable. Its skin is pretty, but its heart is dark. Though it borrows some of the gauzy mood of The Virgin Suicides, it’s essentially unlike any other Sofia Coppola film, a serene, supple picture that hits more than a few notes of despair.

  • This is Coppola’s funniest film to date, and also her straightest historic film to date (Marie Antoinette’s colour scheme was pure pop). Still, it is very much a work by a maestro of heady melancholy. Beneath the exquisitely rendered visual and atmospheric gild is a passionate and brilliantly observed lament for female sexuality left to go to seed.

  • It’s a steamy scenario, but the film proceeds matter-of-factly through chores, lessons, meals, and prayers. It emphasizes languid procedure even as its dark comedy of manners turns to Gothic horror. Editor Sarah Flack, who started out working with Soderbergh, has pared this story down to its essentials. It’s just action and consequence, one following the other like day follows night.

  • I’ll admit that Coppola’s aesthetic in this film isn’t as empty as I’d first thought, and so too there’s more to be learnt here about race than we might initially assume – as the brilliant Claudia Rankine reminds us, “it’s important that people begin to understand that whiteness is not inevitable, and that white dominance is not inevitable...” But I haven’t changed my mind about how lacking in motivation Coppola’s characters are when it comes to actions that are integral to the plot.

  • "We are girls", the young students of Nicole Kidman's seminary are taught to say in a French lesson early in the film. Indeed, the best moments of Coppola's film are keenly attuned to the reactions, secrets, and self-motivated impulses that girls have when "men" are suddenly a thing. The characterizations are too thin: for this story to transcend, it needed to be richer or more deranged. But it's a dreamy 90 minutes.

  • The casting is sharp. Kidman bringing her A-game facade of frostiness, desiring while wanting to appear otherwise. Dunst is equal parts shy and rebellious; Fanning is slyly, recklessly adolescent. The movie is imperfect for its worldview, but not, to my mind, irresponsible. It’s a movie about a specific window on the world, well aware of its specificity. Even as its limits prove disappointing, it makes sense to the movie, I think, that the real story is what’s hovering just beyond the frame.

  • The film is not shy about violence. Nor is it shy about sex, and it’s the first time that Coppola has framed Dunst—who plays Edwina, Martha’s repressed deputy schoolteacher, and the one at the seminary who really falls for McBurney—as something other than a princess in a gilded cage, a dream version of femininity. Here Edwina is both the accidental avenger and the vulnerable, real human inside the dream. Reinventing Kirsten Dunst is Coppola’s most intriguing revision.

  • The first hour of The Beguiled is as slow and atmospheric as you'd expect from Coppola... Posed like tableaux vivants in artfully coordinated pale pastels, the assembled women more closely resemble a period-perfect Vogue cover than a besieged community on the losing side of a brutal war. There is cunning method, though, in the suffocating formality of the well-mannered civilities that pass at first between the ladies and their patient.

  • It isn’t Coppola’s strongest film, but it’s her smartest and most skillful in portraying how the dynamics of a group of women can warp and weft under outside pressure, turning from community to competition. Which is why it’s so aggravating that Coppola, who also wrote the script, chose to excise race from a story built on a foundation of slavery, as if leaning directly into criticisms of her work as an apologist for the advantages her white protagonists enjoy.

  • In some respects, this is the echt Sofia Coppola film: it stands or falls entirely on its atmospherics. As it happens, Coppola is on point, successfully turning the screen into a vaporous hotbox of swamp steam, dark shade under the Spanish moss, and of course drifting smoke from battlegrounds that are kept out of sight but are never psychologically absent.

  • Coppola’s a master at taking something that could be portentous and rendering it delicate, thereby reclaiming its depth... The character dynamics transfix — particularly the interplay between headmistress Miss Martha (Kidman) and teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst, excellent as always) — but I was most taken with the way Coppola uses style to create meaning.

  • As a standalone film, Coppola’s version abounds in pleasures: from the starry cast (at least four of whom almost coincidentally seem to be hitting their career-best strides at exactly the same moment) to Philippe Le Sourd‘s cinematography, all misty woods, dangling creepers and softly sparkling candlelit interiors. But as a comparison to Siegel’s more problematic, yet also more full-throated, luridly bonkers take on Thomas Cullinan’s novel, it feels strangely unkinked and scrubbed clean.

  • Siegel's film is claustrophobic; Coppola's is merely airless. The film feels somehow tepid and overly manicured, as abstemious as the repressed female characters at its core. It feels fussed over like a lock of hair combed into submission.

  • With such gestures grafted onto this reimagination of a story, something feels a bit too protected/protective here. Subtle sidelong glances feel just a touch too underlined *as* subtle: it's a matter of deftness of touch and proportion, I think, not tone-deafness. I'm looking forward to revisiting Siegel's version (which I like) to compare. The performances are strong, and the film is best in its depictions of seemingly trivial or unrehearsed actions and interactions between the younger girls.

  • The film is exquisitely realized, with strong ambience, carefully modulated performances, and a painterly attention to textures... [It's] better directed than it is written, however. In its study of interpersonal rivalry and sexual tension, the film doesn't say anything that wasn't better articulated in Don Siegel's 1971 adaptation of the same source material. Coppola's movie contains most of the same incidents as Siegel's, yet her adaptation doesn't grant them the same depth.

  • A potentially chilling moment involving the death of a pet is rushed and anticlimactic, as is the sexual betrayal. After the would-be Gothic goings-on have run their course, the movie fades out with the same hushed, humid prettiness with which it began.

  • “Taste,” the poet Paul Valery said, “is made of a thousand distastes”—fair enough, and by any measure Coppola’s The Beguiled is a film of impeccable taste, even when the camera is caught lingering on grievous wounds. More at home in Calabasas than Old Dominion, Coppola has given us some grisly field surgeries here, but what’s lacking is the sense of the awful present in The Bling Ring, with its phantom limb twitch of spiritual amputation.

  • It’s nearly a Freudian cinema, in which deep-seated and inchoate drives are manifested less in dramatic action than in symbols. The film doesn’t convey the sense of a world of human relations or of institutions and their power; the vagueness of its drama is the condition of the exactness of its aesthetic principle. In that sense, it displays the purest, if not the most extreme, exposition of Coppolism yet. It’s also Coppola’s weakest film.

  • It serves as proof that what goes for naturalism in Sofia Coppola's dominion still verges on being decorative to the point of self-parody.

  • Coppola does, it seems, have a loyal legion of fans. I am not one of them, but the least that could be said of her latest outing was that it had none of the overtly objectionable elements of her earlier work (leaving aside The Virgin Suicides [1999], with which the new film has a sizable number of parallels), and for the most part the director accurately gauges just how far the film’s tongue should be lodged in its cheek.

  • For some, the sexual hysteria in Siegel’s movie is ugly, an unrepentant expression of woman-terror. But I’ve always been fascinated by the sheer excess of ’71’s Beguiled, in the ways that its surfeit of lust and scheming somehow lays bare — and, in a perverse way, honors — the fury of the Farnsworth females. Coppola’s Beguiled, like nearly every film she’s made, teems with rich, period-exact surfaces. McBurney may suffer grievous bodily harm, but Coppola’s movie never breaks the skin.

  • From an aesthetic and technical perspective, her achievement is laudable, but there’s something underfurnished about this movie, a lack of historical, intellectual, and thematic richness. For all its elaborate design and carefully calibrated mood, it comes down to the tale of a randy fox in an impeccably preserved Greek Revival henhouse.

  • It's always exciting when filmmakers push themselves and make films squarely outside their comfort zones, which could be said of Sofia Coppola who returns to Cannes this year with The Beguiled... The film marks new territory for Coppola. But while her vision is predictably sharp in the way that it tackles the material’s sexual politics, the film also feels flattened, stripped of its lurid, psychosexual appeal. Even more than “limited,” it feels safe.

  • Coppola's signature woozy sensuality, coupled with her efforts at comparative subtlety/respectability—McBurney is no longer a sociopath who passionately kisses a 12-year-old girl in the film's very first scene, repeatedly lies about his conduct in battle, and eventually declares his intention of raping everybody in the school—creates a hothouse atmosphere that plays even more misogynistic than did the original, which at least has a sense of humor about McBurney's erotic power.

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