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Thread: THE BEGUILED (Sofia Coppola 2017)

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    THE BEGUILED (Sofia Coppola 2017)

    SOFIA COPPOLA: THE BEGUILED (2017)


    COLIN FARRELL AND KIRSTEN DUNST IN THE BEGUILED

    Clammy weather

    The Beguiled concerns a Union soldier with a wounded leg rescued by the inhabitants of a semi-deserted girls school in the South, who excites, charms, and then annoys them, with unpleasant results, which we cannot reveal. From time to time there's a distant rumble of cannon fire, and sometimes Confederate soldiers pass by. But this all happens in a hothouse, under a glass dome.

    In Sofia Coppola's film, photographed handsomely by dp Philippe Le Sourd ("There is barely a graceless frame in the whole affair" says Anthony Lane's lukewarm review), the lush, overgrown, vine-draped garden of the tall-columned mansion representing the semi-deserted young ladies' academy where the action transpires is permeated by the same pale blue haze as the big, tall, curtained rooms inside. The difference is that there's stuff growing apace outside. But stuff is growing inside too. Adolescent girls, presided over by a couple of lonely women, headmistress Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) and lonely Edwina (Kirsten Dunst, cloyingly sad), who'd like to be taken somewhere far away from here. The next largest young lady is the flirty Alicia (Elle Fanning); and there are half a dozen other younger girls. They're stuck here. The War is on. This is the South, and so put-on southern accents come and go (several of the younger girls may really be southern). It's one of the middle-sized girls, a bird fancier, who rescues the far larger prey: Though Miss Martha wants to pretend that he won't be around long enough to have an identity, the soldier quickly asserts himself as Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell). He sports his own Irish brogue, which is okay, because, he explains later, he's a mercenary, and has no passionate dedication to the conflict (or local origin). He's a wounded bird, shot in the leg. And he lies exhausted.

    When McBurney's rescued, it's Miss Martha, Nicole Kidman delicately firm, a little neutral, is the one who sees to it that the corporal is cared for - and kept sequestered in the Music Room. She herself lovingly cleanses and stitches his wound and washes his body. The camera, acting out her preoccupation, lingers long and cloyingly over his wound and his white flesh. The youngest girls, starved for excitement, are eager to get glimpses of the young man.

    As he rapidly recovers and the females go from caution and hostility to friendliness, it's as if McBurney has been plopped down into a harem, and he woos each of those he has contact with in a different way. He sees Edwina as an easy mark, whereas Miss Martha has much more reserve and must be dealt with respectfully. The girl who found him he tells she is his greatest friend. He plays, and he will pay.

    The film has an hour of fooling around. Then it gets to its main business, which is horror tinged with eroticism. Various critics have remarked that this is really pulp material that Coppola has sought to turn into an art film. But critics said the same thing of the 1971 Don Siegel version starring Clint Eastwood. Roger Moore of Movie Nation has commented that this version has "stripped the tale, cut the length, eschews menace and goes easy on the malice, which made the earlier version of the story work." A.A. Dowd of AV Club expresses a common opinion when he says the movie is "“tasteful' hothouse pulp, if such a thing is possible." In principle, Coppola has returned to the source novel by Thomas Cullinan. Comparisons with the earlier movie are odious, but inevitable, however, and not necessarily in the new one's favor.

    Clearly Coppola has focused more on the moods of the different girls, and sheared away some of the action contained in the 1971 movie, the greater vigor of Clint Eastwood, and a black character, Hallie (Mae Mercer). And clearly, with the pale, pretty, and largely blond females and the attractively pastel images by Le Sourd, this version strives hard to be "tasteful," subtle, delicate. But when things get nasty, there's nothing delicate about the action any more. What is left is icky, somewhat repulsive, and finally puzzling and unsatisfying. It doesn't produce a profound emotion - only a troubled aesthetic frisson. Certain Latin American and Spanish directors do this sort of thing well. But why Sofia Coppola undertook it when the earlier version has clearly not been forgotten is hard to guess. The shorter run-time is one of the greatest virtues.

    The Beguiled, 93 mins., debuted at Cannes in Competition, Director's prize. Other festivals include Los Angeles, Sydney, Provincetown, Moscow, and Karlovy. Limited US release 23 Jun. 2017; wider release 1 July. Metacritic rating 76%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-02-2017 at 07:09 PM.

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    Unsatisfying Commentary?

    Interestingly, Chris has incorporated in his commentary on this movie to contain about 90% plot and cinematic observations and only about 10% on his own feelings about the movie without much explanatory power. So in some ways, his comments about Beguiled as being
    "finally puzzling and unsatisfying," he himself leaves the reader as much as unsatisfied wanting more as much has he apparent wanted from the movie. Personally, I found the subdued emotional affect of Beguiled perfectly attuned to the Southern cultural norms of the period and thus making this movie much more satisfying to me than for Chris.

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    That I find the movie lacking is quite obvious, though you often have this complaint that I don't emphasize my judgment clearly enough. You often miss clear hints such as

    the camera lingers long and cloyingly

    put-on southern accents come and go

    cloyingly sad [this is repetitious on my part]

    the film has an hour of fooling around

    A.A. Dowd of AV Club expresses a common opinion when he says the movie is "“tasteful' hothouse pulp, if such a thing is possible." In principle, Coppola has returned to the source novel by Thomas Cullinan. Comparisons with the earlier movie are odious, but inevitable, however, and not necessarily in the new one's favor.

    What is left is icky, somewhat repulsive, and finally puzzling and unsatisfying. . .


    How any of this leaves any doubt about how I feel about Coppola's Beguiled I don't know. Anyway if I leave the reader unsatisfied as the movie does, does not bother me so much. I can't provide satisfaction with something unsatisfying. Or not always anyway.

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    Chris is clear about this feelings, but why?

    I accept that Chris has provided the reader with plenty of examples about his opinion of this movie, yet his opinions don't seem to offer much in the way of persuasive support for opinions:

    "the camera lingers long and cloyingly" The Beguiled as a mood piece, the lingering, long camera shots allow the audience to experience the ambiance of the South and the location which in some ways becomes a living character as part of the movie. Thus the lingering shots deserve the extended attention.

    "put-on southern accents come and go" As a Japanese American living in Utah, the southern accent isn't as important as a Japanese character mispronouncing Japanese. The problem here might be one of geographical proximity. I wonder how non-Americans would experience the variation in southern accents.

    "cloyingly sad [this is repetitious on my part]" Again as a mood piece, female emotions play a strong role in this female perspective of The Beguiled. Sadness is expected to be much more prominent unlike male movies which focus on anger and rational logic and practical dichotomous presentations of physical action and strength of character. The lingering sense of sadness is an important element of this movie as in a sense there is bereavement at the loss of trust and the sense of betrayal which in turn eventually leads to anger and revenge. Women tend of experience mood for longer periods than men. Typically for men its almost always presented in the movies as men drinking to numb themselves.

    "the film has an hour of fooling around" For many men, its mostly about wham bang, thank you ma'am, transitory quick sexual pleasure. As this movie is mostly about the experience of women around a singular male, this movie is more about the extended sensual and extended emotional experiences that women might experience. Even women might tend of have longer experiences of an orgasm than a man so that fooling around for women is much longer.

    Chris's commentary almost begins to suggest a gender bias in his beliefs and evaluation of this movie.

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    Well, at least you now grant that I was clear about my opinions. So now you shift your attack to the content of the opinions and try to explain them by stereotypes. The fact that mispronunciation of Japanese bothers you is no way of dismissing inconsistent southern accents, tabuno. I am a huge admirer of the Tale of Genji. Sex is not "wham, bam, thank you mam" for me; that's not what I look for, and your use of this phrase is unwise. I would also say Jane Austen is my favorite novelist. I am gay. I am surely not a stereotypical macho straight male western guy, if such exists in this day and age. We simply disagree on Coppola's film. It's interesting, it's worth watching, but it didn't ultimately work for me. I frankly find the story creepy - in the Clint Eastwood version as much as this one. My opinions are my opinions. I don't think they can be dismissed as representing some kind of western male stereotype: that is some kind of abstract ad hominem argument that seems to me quite out of line.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-07-2017 at 10:40 AM.

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    Chris has no response

    It's interesting that Chris responds to my commentary as an attack, a rather male response. Instead of responding to my comments, it's attack the person instead of the ideas expressed. My concern with Chris's commentary is that he seems to avoid the idea that The Beguiled is more mood than plot by itself and this debate has already had its beginnings years ago with our dialogue over Lost in Translation (2003). See http://www.filmleaf.net/showthread.p...-Lost-in-limbo

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    Thanks for bringing our attention to the "classic" Filmleaf Lost in Translation thread - my review, the comments on it, including yours. I didn't, overall, like Lost in Translation, but it's Sofia Coppola's most admired film and I had some very favorable things to say about it, particularly Bill Murray's remarkably subtle performance. I still hold to my statement that "Suicide" (the movie, Virgin Suicides) "was more fun." That is my favorite. The Beguiled is even less fun, considerably less, than Lost in Translation. Yes, both are "mood pieces." I don't think that's what's wrong with them, though.

    It's interesting that Chris responds to my commentary as an attack, a rather male response. Instead of responding to my comments, it's attack the person instead of the ideas expressed.
    It's extraordinary that you could criticize my Beguiled review on a personal basis as being my typically male misunderstanding, and then when I respond to that generic ad hominem criticism of my review, you say I respond to your "commentary as an attack, a rather male response." I was responding to your comments. Is there supposed to be a difference between "commentary" and "comments"? If so, I don't know what it is. How can you keep saying my response to the film is "typically male" and then criticize me for taking your statements personally?
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-07-2017 at 11:10 AM.

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    So I Attacked Chris? Maybe Rudely Observant.

    Let's see how Chris describes my commentary of August 6, 2017.

    He writes back on August 6, 2017 and I quote, "So now you shift your attack to the content of the opinions and try to explain them by stereotypes." So Chris then somehow comes up with the idea that I'm the one attacking and then he complains that I write about my writing as attacking him when it seems that it was his idea that I was attacking, not mine. I'm confused. Regardless of who began this idea of me attacking Chris, Chris's August 6, 2017 use of the word "attack" seems to be something one might find as a defensive response that males use..."attack" is so physical or aggressive. On the other hand, in my conversations with women, most of them would use the word "rude." If Chris has described my August 6, 2017 as "rude" than I would have pondered the possibility that Chris might have a broader viewpoint when he experienced The Beguiled. So when Chris suggests that I am using stereotypes, I'm actually describing a documented gender difference which in part is the basis for my complaint about complaints about The Beguiled.

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    As you say, you are confused; and your statements above are confused, and confusing. The point should be, where do we differ about Coppola's The Beguiled. It's hard to reconcile your peculiar, alienating device of referring to me only in the third person, your objecting to pretty much everything I say, with your claim that you were not attacking me, but clearly you disliked my review, first for what you took to be its vagueness, then when it was clarified to you for what it said. First you complained that my review didn't even make clear to your satisfaction how I rated the film. Then when I quoted from my review to show my response to it you said I had a "gender bias" and gave a "male response." If that's not personal, what is? That is, it's personal, "ad hominem," but in a generic way, against me as a man. I find this kind of online quarreling unproductive. Our purpose is to talk about movies, not each other. Let's go back to the film.

    To get a better and more informed statement of views of Coppola's The Beguiled that I share, read Anthony Lane's review in The New Yorker. He writes a lot better than I do. Note that at one point he says "'The Beguiled' runs for ninety-four minutes, and even that feels like a stretch." He describes it as "drenched" in "teasing tastefulness." That's my feeling. It makes your flesh creep, but "tastefully." This version, he says, "is, as you would hope, pruned of the misogyny that blighted its predecessor [i.e. the original Clint Eastwood version that we ought to be talking about, but aren't: have you seen it? I started to, but didn't have the heart, because the plot creeps me out, and once was enough]." But, Lane goes on, this "pruning" of the "misogyny" of Eastwood's version (as well as the original female black slave character), still presents a world in which the action revolves around a man. The women are depicted as just "pining for a man to come along, as if they had nothing better to do." And when they brutalize him, it's not "in defense of Southern honor" but because he had three of them "competing for his favor, and the competition turned sour." This is a gender-related interpretation of the film, but not a gander-biased one. This isn't a story of female empowerment. It's a story of women whose behavior is warped and ugly because they've been manipulated by a man.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-17-2017 at 01:23 PM.

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