Beguiled — The Male and Female Gaze

Posted on June 29, 2017 at 3:52 pm

The best way to see Sofia Coppola’s “Beguiled” is to pair it with the original version, starring Clint Eastwood and directed by Don Siegel. Her film is really in conversation with the 1971 version. Both are the story of a wounded Union soldier who disrupts the lives of the women at a sheltered Southern boarding school in the midst of the Civil War. Each reflects its time as well as its director. Don Siegel directed such testosteronic classics as “Dirty Harry” and “The Killers.” In his version, the schoolmistress played by Geraldine Page is a bit unhinged (she had an incestuous relationship with her brother). The sudden arrival of a man (a literal enemy) is profoundly unsettling to all of the women but the implication is that the absence of men put them on the brink.

Copyright 2017 Parmount

One reason Sofia Coppola decided to do a remake for the first time was to tell the story from the perspective of the women, and that has provoked some especially thoughtful commentary. In her version, the women are generally stronger and more resilient. Coppola’s decision to omit a slave character has drawn some criticism, but she said that she could not do justice to the character and that she wanted the girls and their teachers to feel abandoned and to be forced to learn to take care of themselves.

The New York Times wrote:

Ms. Coppola said that she did not give any thought to a female gaze, but that she did see differences in how she and Siegel handled the same material. “Siegel told his film from a male perspective of a guy surrounded by crazy women. I tell mine through the filter of women’s frustrated desires,” she said in a phone interview this month. She recalled that when Anne Ross, her frequent production designer, suggested that she watch the 1971 film, at the end the director thought, Let’s tell the women’s side of this. In Siegel’s version, the women are cast to type as slut, spinster, servant and so on, as if they represented the spectrum of female humanity. Ms. Coppola, who unlike Siegel is not judgmental about female sexuality, has more developed characters for the women.

On, Susan Wloszczyna writes about both versions, frankly admitting that she prefers the first.

I gave a pass to the Sunday-best sort of clothes that his keepers wear to impress McBurney, which are somehow crisp and wrinkle-free in such humidity. But then Coppola has the seven females don satin ball gowns with perfectly braided hair and fancy ribbons while serving a sumptuous Michelin-star worthy feast to the soldier on fancy china and crystal. Weirdly, we get to witness one of the younger students don a corset Scarlett O’Hara-style when she clearly doesn’t need one. Perhaps, by this time, the director can get away with such a fantasy sequence that feels like a War Between the States-themed prom.

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Critics Film History Movie History Original Version

Where to Watch Interview with Chris Wedge of “Monster Trucks”

Posted on January 14, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Copyright Paramount 2016
Copyright Paramount 2016
My friend Susan Wloszczyna interviewed “Monster Trucks” director Chris Wedge for the MPAA website Where to Watch. The long-time animation director (“Ice Age”) spoke to her about working with live action.

Animation takes longer but there is more control. The idea we went in with was usually more closely represented onscreen when we were done. But live action has more variables. The weather on location. Live actors who get sick or break their leg. But when I was done, I thought, “That was a lot of fun.”

And he told her how his background in animation helped him create an appealing “monster truck.”

I thought, “Truck, kid, monster.” I want the truck to be a character and move like a character. We built an animatronic truck that was remote-controlled so it could lean over and pick its wheels up. We used that a bunch. There is also straight-ahead animated truck. I wanted it look like it had attitude and honored the physics of the world.

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Behind the Scenes

Anna Kendrick Memoir: Scrappy Little Nobody

Posted on November 13, 2016 at 9:38 am

Copyright Touchstone 2016
Copyright Touchstone 2016

No matter what character Anna Kendrick plays, you can’t help wishing you could just hang out with her, having some tea and laughing at the world. Now she has written a memoir called Scrappy Little Nobody, and her wry, self-deprecating, razor-sharp take on the world is the next best thing. My friend, movie critic Susan Wloszczyna wrote about it for The Buffalo News.

For the precocious Kendrick, who defines that p-word as meaning “this kid is annoying,” it arrived rather early. This diminutive dynamo with rafter-rattling vocal abilities made her Broadway debut at age 12 and got a Tony nomination for efforts in the musical “High Society” as well as earned an Oscar nod at age 24 for ”Up in the Air.” Turns out she not only possesses a well-honed humorous perspective on her all-too-human foibles – just one reason why her witty Twitter account has amassed more than 5 million followers. But this down-to-earth young lady has also collected a reasonable supply of insider showbiz anecdotes and observations about growing up in limelight as well.

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Actors Books’s Women’s History Month Tribute

Posted on March 31, 2016 at 8:00 am

This week, in honor of Women’s History Month, on women critics write about film. One featured essay is my appreciation of Nora Ephron, which notes that “Nora Ephron has been portrayed on screen by Diane Keaton, Sandra Dee, Meryl Streep, and Streep’s daughter, Grace Gummer. And that’s just the characters based on her life; her wit and insight are reflected in dozens of other characters she created as well.”

Other highlights include:

Thoughts on the 25th anniversary of “Thelma and Louise

Jessica Ritchey on “The Double Life of Veronique

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Critics Film History Gender and Diversity Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Susan Wloszczyna Interviews Pete Docter about “Inside Out”

Posted on June 16, 2015 at 8:00 am

My friend Susan Wloszczyna interviewed “Inside Out’s” co-writer/director Pete Docter for IndieWire. The film takes place primarily inside the mind and emotions of an 11-year-old girl who has just moved to a new home and a new city with her parents. Docter acknowledged that Pixar has been slow to give girls and women lead roles in their films, in part because they reflected the perspective and experience of the men who worked there. But this film was inspired by Docter’s own daughter (who previously provided the voice for young Ellie in “Up”). He added,

We contemplated why a girl? The reason is that research has found that no one is more socially attuned and keyed in on expressions and little interactions than a girl aged 11 to 17. I see this in my daughter. She will come home from school and say, “Oh, my best friend doesn’t like me anymore.” How did she know that? Maybe from a certain look. On the other hand, no one is less socially attuned than an 11-to- 17-year-old boy. Walk around girls that age, and they are dressing like women, while boys are 3 feet of awkwardness.

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