Tuesday 20 June 2017

Sydney Film Festival (28) - THE BEGUILED (Sofia Coppola, USA). Reviewed by Rod Bishop

Cannes Red Carpet for The Beguiled
Disappointing and almost lifeless, it’s hard to see how this film made it into Competition at the Sydney Film Festival, let alone Cannes. More cynical commentators than I would say the red-carpet media attention at Cannes – Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kristen Dunst, Sophia Coppola et al – would be enough to see it included there. Others have pointed out the French think the Clint Eastwood original from 1971 (directed by Don Siegel) is one of his better works. Ah, those French…perhaps Lost in Translation?”

It’s the story of a wounded Yankee soldier given refuge in a female seminary in Virginia during the Civil War. After flirting with the older women and one of the teenagers and promising to pay nocturnal visits to two of them, he is pushed down the stairs, has his leg amputated above the knee by the headmistress and is finally served a bunch of deadly mushrooms for dinner. The End.

The Beguiled, PR composite
Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Elle Fanning
Perhaps James Wan could have made something interesting with this, but Coppola goes for a sort-of Picnic at Hanging Rock aesthetic in the first half and then an arty Gothic for the rest. The gloomy photography is probably meant to be atmospheric, but just comes across as gloomy and Coppola’s direction is at best uninspired and, at worst, turgid.

The audience in the State Theatre were pretty vocal, laughing at both melodramatic glances by the actresses and the often clunky dialogue. They had to do something to keep themselves entertained.

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