A Good Ol’ Bodice-ripper …Southern-style
We are riding into blockbuster season (i.e. more superhero films) and the trailers for latter-year entertainment show that we’ll be taking out the nostalgia goggles, but polishing them off for a glossier look (IT, Stranger Things, etc.). So, I wanted to focus on another kind of movie that I honestly doubt many people will see.
Most people I know are completely unaware of a certain Clint Eastwood film from the 70s, that seemed to have been inserted in between his appearances in spaghetti western roles and as Dirty Harry. In it, he stars as a wounded Yankee soldier convalescing in a Southern girls’ school during the American Civil War. It’s a fucked-up little number called The Beguiled (1971) that defied anything I had ever seen at the time… and I haven’t really seen anything quite like it since. If you haven’t watched it, I definitely recommend tracking it down, as it has now gotten the remake treatment.
This time, Colin Farrell takes up Eastwood’s mantle, and a bevvy of very capable actresses slip into the roles originally occupied by Geraldine Page and Elizabeth Hartman (if you don’t know who the latter is – here). Having seen the original, these are good choices, though I would have pictured Michael Fassbender in Eastwood’s role. Nicole Kidman reprises Page’s place as the school’s coldly benevolent headmistress, and Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning respectively play the lonely teacher and sexually precocious student. What
starts out as a group of respectable women doing their Christian duty turns into a psycho-sexual maelstrom of murderous jealously, as the repressed sexual urges corseted underneath propriety, religion, and their duty to the Confederate cause are heated to combustible levels. The handsome soldier is playing a deadly game, both to keep himself with in their good graces for his own survival, but also…to have his cake and eat it, too.
It’s hard for me to tell if this will capture the fetid Southern Gothic tone of the original…that one had a sinister feel throughout the entire running time and with that nightmarish surreality a lot of thrillers from the 1970s had. But this new film is directed by Sofia Coppola, a hit or miss director with me, but one who could prove quite perfect for a story like this.
The Beguiled (2017) is scheduled for June 30.