The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#51 Post by DarkImbecile » Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:38 am

This is nitpicky, but Farrell's character is a corporal (basically just a step above the rank of private); if he were a colonel (a high-ranking officer), the way he was treated and his character's behavior would have likely been entirely different.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#52 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:44 am

Brian C wrote:I think one thing I disagree with you about, though,
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.
Considering the circumstances he found himself in, I wouldn't begrudge him a bit of respectful bullshitting. He was doing his best to be kind to a home full of people who were inundating him with perhaps unwanted (at times) attention, until that attention managed to corrupt his ability to play this situation safe to that point. I could totally see an alternative scenario where he does not do what he did with Fanning and leaves the house without incident. What followed his amputation may have been an unmasking, but his character was correct in that it was a totally unnecessary one - he should never have been shoved down that flight of stairs. And considering how he could have reacted to all of that, the neutered menace he does exhibit almost seemed understandable, which diminished the impact of the third act and made his murder feel unnecessary and ugly.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#53 Post by Brian C » Tue Jul 18, 2017 12:03 pm

DarkImbecile wrote:This is nitpicky, but Farrell's character is a corporal (basically just a step above the rank of private); if he were a colonel (a high-ranking officer), the way he was treated and his character's behavior would have likely been entirely different.
Of course, not nitpicky at all. Thanks for pointing that out. I just absentmindedly conflated the two.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#54 Post by Murdoch » Sat Jul 29, 2017 10:22 pm

Brian's post reflects my opinion of the film as well. The Beguiled, as with all of Coppola's work that I've seen, is beautiful. However, it's an ultimately empty experience. I saw the Siegel film long ago and intend on giving it a rewatch, but I recall a sort of darkness pervading the original. Here, the climactic scene that should have flipped the gentle tone of the film feels like it has little purpose at all.
Farrell gets angry, smashes plates and threatens the women, only for that attitude to disappear after he has sex with Dunst. This calming down happens so soon in the story after his waking up from the amputation that you'd be forgiven if you forgot Farrell was angry in the first place. Farrell's rage needed more time to marinate, much more time. Instead, the entire film is a build-up to Farrell shouting and then getting poisoned.
Farrell's manipulations were so subtle that he never came across as the menacing "blue belly" he should have. Both my companion and I were rather shocked at how it ended, not because the plotting was surprising, but instead because it felt like the film was trying to reach the point of violence and menace, and once it did it couldn't conclude itself fast enough.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#55 Post by knives » Tue Dec 26, 2017 6:19 pm

This is okay if weirdly long winded feeling though like others above I feel a stronger touch could have worked. I haven't read the book, but compared to Siegel's film this strikes me as a lot lesser. The biggest problem is that it in many respects is too much like Siegel film, just with a more ornate production design and gore. It basically hits all of the same notes as his film, but just ever so slightly less successful which seems to defeat having Coppola's perspective on this. I'm not even just talking gender on this (after all I imagine a Bigelow version of this would be the Siegel version), but Coppola's whole perspective is radically different in terms of interest and characterization that some serious differentiation should occur even if only by accident. Some scenes suggest this like Kidman's performance during the prayer intercutting scene a third of the way in or the way the girls laugh at his name, but it's too sparse to come across as uniquely Coppola's take on this story rather than just her look. The performances, especially Kidman's, are top of the line though and hopefully will be remembered come Oscar time.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#56 Post by whaleallright » Mon Jan 01, 2018 9:29 pm

Every time Coppola was prodded to explain her "perspective" on the story she really came up empty. Now, maybe she's just not particularly verbally articulate, or just clams up in interviews (certainly some of the greatest directors ever, like John Ford, were not often fruitful interview subjects). But I couldn't shake the sense that she never quite knew why she was making this film. I think it was doomed by her decorum—her unwillingness to put across, much less properly sell, the melodrama. Siegel's particular background meant that he was unafraid to both hit the broad genre notes (and Eastwood's charismatic, oversized performance helps a ton in this) and to confront the racial and sexual contradictions in ways that Coppola seems too timid to acknowledge. More broadly, I'd say she seems kind of ashamed of story and strives to turn everything into tableaux-driven mood pieces. Which is one reason my favorite of her films is Marie Antoinette, since that elliptical film was constructed unabashedly as a series of set pieces, like a string of music videos.

(Speaking of.... I finally caught up with The Bling Ring, and I can hardly think of a film that seems to have less of a perspective on its subject. I didn't need the film to moralize, nor to relish in the antisocial behavior à la Harmony Korine, but it offered neither insight nor thrills, and a lot of it—including the ostensibly fleet montage sequences—was just D.O.A., totally arrhythmic filmmaking that looked and sounded like a rough cut. Dave Kehr once wrote of her dad's Apocalypse Now, somewhat cruelly, that he "might be happier as a painter or photographer; the story seems to engage him only as the occasion for the graphic effects." I think that's even more true of Sofia's work, but Bling Ring didn't even benefit from her designer's eye, being shot in a seemingly intentionally banal way. Maybe that was the point, but it wasn't an engaging one.)

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#57 Post by dustybooks » Mon Jan 01, 2018 10:06 pm

This worked fabulously for me. I don't quite know how to articulately defend it, though. I really love the sheer perversity of how nonchalant Coppola's films are whether something really momentous is happening or not. For whatever reason her storytelling proclivities have some weird dreamlike quality in their contrasts between aching aesthetic beauty and narrative wispy-ness (or minimalism, but that's probably too high-minded a word) that I find extremely engaging. I respect her for following her instincts knowing full well that, especially with a film on this scale, there's going to be a huge amount of consternation from audiences and critics and such. Not arguing that you guys are wrong to read it as mindlessly pretty, but somehow it's just right to me. And so was The Bling Ring. I don't really know how to explain why but the
abrupt endings of both films made me laugh uproariously.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#58 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Apr 12, 2021 9:00 pm

This holds up far better on a rewatch, like nearly all of Coppola's films. Her curiosity to humanity ventures further into details of nature, corporeal objects, the sounds of floorboards and breath, as enigmatic energies (sexual, power, security, spiritual) become the focus. It's a wonderful, and cheeky, transformation coming from The Bling Ring's attention to the nebulous forces of social-cultural influence in our modern society, here brought back to "simpler" times, yet where this vacuousness in self-knowledge and of barriers between genders, personalities, and generations were just as compromising.

If you watch Farrell and Kidman's early interactions, he yields some genuine appreciation amidst resentment for stalling his ambitions, as she treats him with compassion amidst skeptical judgment, but they both have fair reasons to preserve themselves: he in his position of powerlessness and she for the safety of her girls and threat of being caught and dismantling the life they've built. Along with this logical affinity, there is a simultaneous emotional/primal parallelism between Farrell and the women. I wasn't crazy about the Siegel film, but Coppola lays bare her ethical dilemmas and finds greater interest in that empathic space of conflicting needs and perspectives, with moral indifference. Even Kidman's response to Farrell's statement of gratitude for providing him with pleasure is to reframe her gestures as for his "comfort" rather than "pleasure." Sure, there's some surface-level healthy fears triggered by the mention of "pleasure," but that doesn't discount that she's earnestly benevolent in her care for his wellbeing.

This is an interesting view of humanism, where Coppola sees the practice of unconditional love for god's creatures to be mutually exclusive from the higher cognitive discord in beliefs, desires, and logical solutions for self-preservation that may necessitate superiority or disregard of another's character to prevail. Farrell too is a fugitive from a testosterone-infested wasteland of dirt and death, surrounded by beautiful women who all give him sensual attention and a safe haven from hell on earth. He's not the hero of this film, but he's not the villain either. He's in a position that's validated without being endorsed, which is Coppola's personal thesis of humanism- one that I share. When the final act is ordained, it's a surrender to the unbearable and unconquerable dissonance between these wills, rather than a moral decree. Best interests are conflated, sourced in panic from the unpredictability of behavior and intentions of a stranger. Coppola uses gender to signify this friction but not as the sole root of these larger, broad ideas. Such an oversimplification would only dilute the themes, when Coppola always seeks to expand.

Of course this film is going to bore those looking for more actionable spirit for one side vs the other, but Coppola has repeatedly demonstrated that neither didacticism nor imposed vitality are of any interest to her. She's a curious observer who sees the world in grey, not as points of conflict to be dissected but to be seen and meditated on in all their beauty, even when that beauty is organic destruction. The title of the material is ironic yet perfect for Coppola, a director interested in beguiling processes who never falls subject to becoming beguiled herself, maintaining that detached position of regard. "The Beguiled" is so abstract, but also summarizes humanity's faults and graces in all their possibilities. The kids in The Bling Ring were beguiled too, but, as I've stressed elsewhere, that doesn't mean their perspectives aren't as worth exploring as yours or mine.

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Re: The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

#59 Post by nitin » Fri Apr 16, 2021 6:58 am

I also think this gets short shrift formally, it's beautifully lit and shot.

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