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Entertainment Last Updated: May 26, 2017 - 11:46:18 PM


Sofia Coppola’s "The Beguiled"
By Travolta Cooper, The Cinemas
May 24, 2017 - 9:46:14 AM

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Filmmaker, Sofia Coppola (The Beguiled) and Bahamian filmmaker Travolta Cooper at the 70th edition of Cannes Film Festival

Cannes, France --- The 70th Cannes is celebration mode for three main reasons this year. The first is the obvious: this is its 70th year. Yesterday there was a photo call for what was called the anniversary photo. The snapshot featured scores of filmmakers and actors like Tilda Swinton, Will Smith, Guillermo Del Toro and Michael Haneke. Secondly, this festival, as we’ve reported, is really a signpost for the future of cinema. This is its case with streaming cinema (Netflix and Amazon Studios in full effect here), Virtual Reality (VR cinema) and TV cinema (where the lines are blurred more and more between film and television). Lastly, and not least at all, Cannes' 70th is being seen as the most “progressive” in its history. This is so because there is an historic forty-nine films by female directors from around in competition.

One of these women is filmmaker Sofia Coppola, and her very presence at the festival couldn’t be more auspicious. She’s on the cover of magazines here as a feminist hero, doing panels talks leading conversations on ‘women in filmmaking’ and she was also among the greats featured in the anniversary photo call. Ms. Coppola is here in competition with a new film called The Beguiled, a remake of the 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood and both based on the 1966 novel of the same name.

The Beguiled’s story unfolds during the Civil War at a Southern girl’s boarding school. The school is ran by Miss Martha (played Nicole Kidman) who after the discovery of an injured corporal solider permits him to stay at the home while she and its sheltered young women tend to his wounds. Corporal John McBurney (played by Colin Farrell) is a handsome and rugged enemy soldier (and war deserter) whom we can’t really be certain of as first glance. Naturally, neither are the women in the film. As they provide refuge for him and tends to his badly damaged leg, the house is taken over with sexual tension and dangerous rivalries. And as taboos are broken in an unexpected turn of events, what follows is a story of gender politics, power dynamics and. The Corporal, whose safety and security is now in the hands of this home, raises questions to the women and us the audience. He is charming, but is his charm a con? Or is he just grateful to find compassion and sanctuary after witnessing the war’s brutality?

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The cast of "The Beguiled" with filmmaker Sofia Coppola (second from right) at Cannes Film Festival

This is a lion’s den and there is a disaster ahead. The film’s cinematography is rich with detail. It is firmly rooted in its 1860’s southern Gothic environment, while its glares of light on the screen hint that this could also be today. The devil is in the detail. When the women walk about the house wearing all white after prayer or dinner, for example, their costumes more or less resemble modern witches than they do Southern Belles of the Old South. Both Farrell and Kidman as a repressed by regal Miss Martha are good in their perspective roles (this is their second movie together and at the festival) but the standout performance, for me, belongs to Kirsten Dunst. Dunst plays as Edwina, a French teacher at the school who the corporal seduces with promises of love and companionship. Another standout is Elle Fanning as Alicia, the eldest of the girls at the boarding school who has a seduction plan all of her own.

But the real star of the film is its filmmaker, Sofia Coppala. She is, regardless of gender, one of my personal favorite filmmakers. In fact, Lost In Translation remains in my top ten of best movies of the new millennium. The Beguiled feels like one of Ms. Coppola’s best works and it solidifies her as one of our leading women filmmakers. I remember watching Jodie Foster in the press conference last year and witnessing how much (even as a filmmaker of Money Monster) of a star she was as the press drilled her with questions. Ms. Foster’s light was as bright as the two stars of her film (George Clooney and Julia Roberts). Ms. Coppola’s presence in the pressroom was just like that, with all the calls for “Sofia, Sofia”. And this was probably more so because Ms. Foster has ‘famous actor’ to add to her resume and “star” credit. However, Sofia, who had a brief role in her father’s (Francis Ford Coppola) “The Godfather Part Three”, was universally panned as an actress. But none of that matters any more as she has more than held her own and managed to become, as of right now, the most famous working filmmaker of the Coppola family.

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A scene from "The Beguiled" starring Kirstin Dunst and Colin Farrell

The Beguiled
at times feels like a summation of Ms. Coppola's filmmography in theme and cast. Most notably “The Virgin Suicides” (which also starred Kirsten Dunst) and “Somewhere” (which starred Elle Fanning. I was thinking to myself, I wished Scarlette Johansson (from Lost in Translation) had a role in the film to make this Coppola parallel universe complete.


The Cinemas is the brainchild of its host, Bahamian writer, director, and producer Travolta Cooper, who began the show as a result of an endorsement deal with The Bahamas’ movie theater chain. At heart, The Cinemas is designed to promote and encourage the new wave of Caribbean Cinema happening in the Region and around the world. The show consists of movie reviews and interviews with a Caribbean twist.




Also:

Travolta Cooper at Cannes: Why is Netflix here?

Travolta Cooper at Cannes: What is Amazon Studios doing here?

Travolta Cooper at Cannes: Okja and The “New Hollywood”

The State of Caribbean Cinema: The Dominican Republic

European Cinema and Independent Sensibilities


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