|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on June 28, 2017 at 5:00 PM|
THE BEGUILED ***1/2
IDEA: The fragile ecosystem of an Antebellum south girls' seminary is disrupted when one of the girls brings a wounded Union soldier inside.
BLURB: In Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, pastel dresses and southern hospitality are the seductive signifiers of a primly manicured vileness. Their surface sumptuousness can hardly conceal the angst, antipathy, and sexual hysteria simmering beneath. Filtered through Philippe Le Sourd’s gauzy, soft-focus cinematography, however, the cloistered world of the girls’ seminary appears as a placid idyll verging on the embalmed. The war brewing outside is for the women a distant, if not suppressed, reality; their ossified isolation betrays their insidious complicity in its violence. In a shrewd exploiting of our allegiances, Coppola portrays them as a tight-knit collective of women protected by communal rituals and female solidarity. They seem innocent enough, until their carefully maintained walls are destabilized by the unruly excesses of the outside world, and human nature itself. Their subsequent unraveling is orchestrated by Coppola with a masterfully winching tension. The becalmed air and patina of etiquette never abate, making their increasing psychological precarity and malice all the more chilling. One could easily object to how the film glorifies their evil, reveling in the gorgeous, frilly aesthetics of their depravity, and it would not be an unwarranted qualm. However, this allows Coppola to sneakily modulate our identification in a compounding of the film’s unsettling effects. The war may remain on the periphery, as it does for the women, but its horrors, finally, refuse to stay at a distance.