The Beguiled netted Sofia Coppola the Best Director award at Cannes this year, making her only the second woman to win the prestigious prize in the festival’s 71-year history. A remake of Don Siegel’s cult 1971 thriller, itself adapted from Thomas Cullinan’s 1966 pulp novel, this American Civil War-set chamber piece sees a wounded Union soldier (Colin Farrell) take refuge in a girls’ boarding school in rural Virginia. Sternly pious headmistress Martha (Nicole Kidman) resolves to nurse him to health and send him on his way, but his presence swiftly has an intoxicating effect on the all-female household. As an ominously slow-burning opening act gives way to a ripe tale of simmering sexual jealousy, the material begins to feel like a strange fit for Coppola’s detached, meditative style of film-making. The climax is at once hyperactively schlocky and self-consciously languorous – imagine Lars von Trier attempting to stick the landing of Antichrist while dosed up on sedatives. But overall this is an artfully shot, impeccably acted, deeply atmospheric slice of Southern Gothic,which further cements Coppola as one of US cinema’s more adventurous and distinctive talents.
The Beguiled | Directed by Sofia Coppola (US 2017) with Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell. Starts Jun 29.
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