The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

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djproject
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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#26 Post by djproject » Fri Jul 07, 2017 10:56 am

Saw this a couple of nights ago at the Kendall Square Cinema.

Having seen nearly everything of hers except for The Bling Ring, I would saw this is in line with everything she has done. I think her strong suit has always been creating a moment of mood without it coming off completely as some forgettable æther. Or you can call it maximal-minimal where it gives you enough to know what is going on but leaves you with enough for you to ponder as you deem fancy.

I will say it is refreshing to see a film go for brevity with 93 minutes where this could have easily been a two hour plus indulgence. Also I had to suspend my disbelief with its setting because I know something a bit about that one ;).

Oh and one more thing ...
SpoilerShow
I decided to share my thoughts on the music here because I don't know if anyone would care to indulge in reading it. Plus the only time this particular cue appears is toward the end.

I really liked the Phoenix contribution - and not surprising given this is Sofia - but I wonder also if this was almost the "PaulStretch" effect on the Monteverdi. This is not to disparage it. If anything, it's appropriate given that it's about creating an atmosphere and a ghostly impression of what had happened, both within the film and even beyond it. In a way, it reminds me of why I like artists like William Basinski and Leyland Kirby.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#27 Post by ianthemovie » Wed Jul 12, 2017 4:48 pm

Weird question, but did anyone else find the opening title credit ("The Beguiled" written in flowery white script) to look curiously squeezed at the beginning of the movie? For a second I thought the film was being projected in the wrong aspect ratio, but nothing else looked out of whack, even the other titles--just that one. I thought it looked so terrible that it must have been a projection error.

All in all I found this to be underwhelming: beautiful to look at but inert and tone-deaf. As a huge fan of Sofia Coppola's other films this was a disappointment. This material did not feel like a good fit for her sensibilities, in spite of her success in the past at capturing girlhood and feminine worlds.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#28 Post by hearthesilence » Sat Jul 15, 2017 11:32 am

I've yet to see this, but I was aware of some debate over the omission of a character who is a slave, with some writers in the media being particularly harsh. (The film critics I do read generally mentioned this, but while it may have been troubling to some, none of them dismissed the film because of it.) Sofia Coppola has now responded to the controversy.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#29 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jul 15, 2017 11:51 am

It was a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation and her complete forgoing makes more sense

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#30 Post by swo17 » Sat Jul 15, 2017 3:02 pm

domino harvey wrote:It was a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation
Accurate description of everything now

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#31 Post by knives » Sat Jul 15, 2017 5:46 pm

Dom, largely I agree with you, but I find her reasoning to be incredibly poor almost making it look like a worse decision. She first cites the way the character talks and that seems like an easy fix of working with your actor for a more real sort of speech. What is particularly appalling to me though is the statement on wanting this to be about women and not race when those two things are seriously connected in a way that as far as I know has never been explored in film with this one's plot being perfect for that, as much as I like the Siegel this is an area that easily could be improved on it, while perhaps adding more to the surface which seems a common criticism. The way she phrases things makes it sound more like she thought this was the easy way out without critically thinking about what having your heroes be confederates means. It at least gives an opportunity to look at the historical context for the aren't I a woman speech.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#32 Post by Foam » Sat Jul 15, 2017 6:26 pm

I need to revisit Mary Antoinette and Somewhere, but this may well be my favorite of Coppola's films. I also felt it had the most forward momentum of any of her films--I was jumping and squirming in my seat--so I'm a bit surprised by accusations that her approach was somehow too disinterested and slow for the material. I'm not familiar with the Siegel film or the novel, though. Of those who think the film is pretty but unexciting, were you aware of the whole plot going in, and do you think that might have something to do with your reaction? (Looking back, I note that AtBP hasn't seen the Siegel).

After watching this I actually thought that Coppola manages to do what I ranted about James Gray not doing with his films in the Lost City of Z thread: to have all the pleasures of the poetic structure and relaxed pacing of Hollywood Renaissance filmmaking, without also sacrificing conventional narrative pleasures and excitement.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#33 Post by DarkImbecile » Sat Jul 15, 2017 7:22 pm

Perhaps Coppola didn't include a black character because she as an artist has nothing to say about the experience of black people during the Civil War (or in general), but she did feel this story fell right into her wheelhouse of examining the relationships between privileged white women. This isn't some historical epic representing itself as the final word on the Civil War, slavery, or even Southern society. It's a small story that limits itself to one location and a handful of characters who explore the themes and interests of its director.

What's wrong with that again?

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#34 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Jul 15, 2017 7:39 pm

You know, it is possible for a writer to do research -- and talk with knowledgeable people who might be able to provide insight to things beyond one's own personal experience.... ;-)

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#35 Post by DarkImbecile » Sat Jul 15, 2017 8:44 pm

And who says she didn't do exactly that and decide that nothing in that particular area added to the story she wanted to tell?

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#36 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Jul 15, 2017 8:53 pm

Primarily the fact that her "self-defense" sounded pretty vacuous.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#37 Post by DarkImbecile » Sat Jul 15, 2017 9:02 pm

Before I respond, can I ask whether you've seen the film yet?

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#38 Post by knives » Sat Jul 15, 2017 9:30 pm

Isn't seeing the film largely beside the point of this discussion. It sounds like Michael is coming from a similar place to me where the deletion of the character isn't the problem (personally I think given Coppola's interests in narrative brevity and intimacy cutting off that sort of fat makes sense) so much as her argument which seems to make womanhood monolithic and presenting a female slave as making it impossible to have a nice binary of man and woman.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#39 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Jul 15, 2017 10:07 pm

knives wrote:her argument which seems to make womanhood monolithic and presenting a female slave as making it impossible to have a nice binary of man and woman.
I read her argument twice looking for what you describe, and I cannot find it.

And, really, if you'd like an examination of both slavery and gender set in an isolated plantation during the Civil War, you have a brilliant one in The Keeping Room. Probably better just to watch that and let The Beguiled be whatever it wants to be.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#40 Post by knives » Sat Jul 15, 2017 10:32 pm

I agree which is why I added the parenthetical. I am not saying the film made an inherently bad decision. In fact knowing Coppola's work it seems unquestionably the right one, but her reasoning seems poorly thought out and, I am having trouble getting the right phrase here, ignorant on race as it relates to feminism. My issue isn't with the film which I expect to like when I see it. It is only with her statements.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#41 Post by DarkImbecile » Sat Jul 15, 2017 10:58 pm

So she shouldn't have had to defend her creative decisions in the first place, but you don't like the way she did when unfairly harangued into doing so?

Anyway, Sausage basically beat me to it, but I think what she did say in the linked article is the key point:
I felt that to treat slavery as a side-plot would be insulting.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#42 Post by Brian C » Sat Jul 15, 2017 11:44 pm

I was hoping this thread would jump the tracks and spawn a "Why Don't Movies Have Only the Social Commentary I Want" infighting title. I'm disappointed that sanity has so far prevailed.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#43 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:09 am

She is free to make whatever sort of film she wants to -- but nothing I have read (including her comments) makes me feel I need to see Beguiled. I am commenting solely on her remarks. (Much more interested in seeing Ghost Story as my next movie excursion).

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#44 Post by DarkImbecile » Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:28 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:(Much more interested in seeing Ghost Story as my next movie excursion)
Hey, me too! Case closed, and I'll see you in that thread in a couple of weeks.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#45 Post by knives » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:46 am

DarkImbecile wrote:So she shouldn't have had to defend her creative decisions in the first place, but you don't like the way she did when unfairly harangued into doing so?

Anyway, Sausage basically beat me to it, but I think what she did say in the linked article is the key point:
I felt that to treat slavery as a side-plot would be insulting.
Basically yes.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#46 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Jul 16, 2017 9:25 am

So, basically, you have a pet idea that race and feminism are really intertwined, and an irritation that the wider culture isn't taking up your pet idea. So then Sofia Coppola comes along and says, among other reasons, that she wasn't comfortable treating treating the issue of slavery and preferred to focus on the gender situation that already existed in the novel. That gave you the opportunity to hammer her for not explicitly mentioning your pet idea and say negative things about her character, even though, while she says nothing for it, she says nothing against it, either, and really says nothing general about race and gender.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#47 Post by Brian C » Tue Jul 18, 2017 10:06 am

I love Coppola but I can't help but be disappointed by this, and it's hard to know what my objection is, exactly. I'm not familiar with the Siegel so I'm not wedded to the idea that this material demands a pulpier approach - in fact, the descriptions of the Siegel that I've read make it sound kind of awful. At the same time, though, it's curious to me how Coppola, whose work thus far has been unfailingly personal and idiosyncratic, has managed to make a movie that simply doesn't feel very distinctive. As noted by others, the photography is beautiful, but other than that, I didn't feel there was anything here to mark this as any different than a million other melodramatic period pieces.

To this point, her work has been so driven by focus on character, but here, there's nothing to say for these characters that couldn't be assumed by simply reading a plot synopsis. The women and girls are neatly assigned "types" that they stick to. There's little sense in how these characters live their day-to-day lives or what the dynamics between them are when the colonel is not around (or, frankly for that matter, when he is around). We're definitely told he's a disruptive presence, but not given any real idea what he's disrupting, aside from the obvious fact that he's a man in a place populated exclusively by females. This world is too neat and self-contained - we're reminded often by dialogue that the war is ongoing around them, but there's not much sense of how this affects them either physically or psychologically.

I think perhaps a problem here is that the movie is just too short. We're not given any time to know these people or get a sense of their lives. Curiously for a Coppola movie, it seems rushed to get from Point A to Point B of the plot, and therefore too much time is spent on the characters played by Farrell, Kidman, and Dunst, and not enough on the full ensemble, and there's no time to just let these characters live. Coppola's most distinctive quality as a director is her ability to create these wonderfully unique moods, but I don't think she's successful in that regard here. It just feels ... ordinary, and I've never before felt that watching her films.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#48 Post by Drucker » Tue Jul 18, 2017 10:42 am

Brian C, you put my thoughts together really well. I liked the film just fine but it really was ordinary.

I saw the film two days ago and one thing that sticks out to me, after reading comments about how well we "know" the characters, is there is also a decent amount of time spent unnecessarily on attempting to build personality for secondary characters. Not only do we learn about the little girl who betrays the Colonel, but all of her peers as well. There is one little girl that is sympathetic towards him, and another hostile to him as an enemy. Considering the brevity of the film, focusing more on the three adult women without the little asides and moments Farrell has with children may have been time better spent.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#49 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Jul 18, 2017 10:45 am

Yes, nice write-up, Brian. I didn't consider until I read it that perhaps my thinking the film needing a pulpier or more sinister approach was born mostly out of just wanting it to do something with this material, rather than the very little it actually does. It doesn't have to be something grim, but that certainly seemed to be what it was flirting with most, and what would have made the most sense. But if Coppola just wanted to quietly develop characters without rocking the boat too much, perhaps she should have seized the opportunity to actually do so with some depth.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#50 Post by Brian C » Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:33 am

mfunk9786 wrote:Yes, nice write-up, Brian. I didn't consider until I read it that perhaps my thinking the film needing a pulpier or more sinister approach was born mostly out of just wanting it to do something with this material, rather than the very little it actually does. It doesn't have to be something grim, but that certainly seemed to be what it was flirting with most, and what would have made the most sense. But if Coppola just wanted to quietly develop characters without rocking the boat too much, perhaps she should have seized the opportunity to actually do so with some depth.
Understood. To be clear, I wasn't singling you out in calling for a pulpier approach - a lot of reviewers have made the same point in comparison with the Siegel film.

I think one thing I disagree with you about, though,
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is describing the colonel as "mild mannered and mostly respectful soldier". I thought he came across as manipulative and dishonest pretty much from the start. There's an early tell - unless I misheard the dialogue - where he's talking up how much he loves the songs of the larks, playing up Amy's evident naturalist streak. But then she corrects him about what kind of birds they are, which I took as a heavy implication that he was basically bullshitting her. That moment then later pays off with the turtle, when she realizes that he's been conning her the whole time about his love for nature and wild things, etc.

I guess I didn't see it as a "transformation" in his behavior after his leg was cut off, but rather an unmasking of sorts, because I didn't take anything he said up to that point with any sincerity. On the one hand, this made the plot turn pretty easy for me to take from a character standpoint, which I guess was not the case for you. But on the other hand, it made that change in him seem predictable if not outright formulaic. I guess what was disappointing for me is that none of the other characters were developed strongly enough as individuals to make that change feel very consequential - they all have an attachment of some kind to him, but how does that play out? The reaction by the Dunst character was interesting - basically she just didn't care because she was so consumed by the idea of being with him, and in fact, seemed to maybe see this turn of events as an opportunity to rise above her competition - but aside from the brief aforementioned betrayal with the turtle, no one else was given much to do beyond just being scared.

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