The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

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Respectability, at least in the conventional cultural sense, is a slightly odd fit when discussing the idiosyncratic oeuvre of Sofia Coppola. After her breakthrough works, The Virgin Suicides and the Oscar-winning Lost in Translation, Coppola has increasingly moved along her own particular path, making films about well-off disillusioned youth in such disparate locales as 18th-century France (Marie Antoinette), modern Hollywood (Somewhere, The Bling Ring), and the Upper East Side (A Very Murray Christmas). In light of these works, The Beguiled may seem like a departure for the well-acclaimed auteur, who added a Best Director prize at Cannes this year to her not-inconsiderable collection. But the film is very much hers, albeit in a much different vein than before.

For starters, it is a remake, in this case of the 1971 film by the same name directed by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page, which itself was based off the novel by Thomas P. Cullinan. The fertile premise, which Coppola’s version follows faithfully, is set during the latter half of the Civil War and involves a wounded Union soldier (John, played by Colin Farrell) who is found and taken care of by a Christian all-girls school in Virginia. Slowly, he begins to forge connections, some of which involve lust, with practically every remaining occupant of the school, including teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), student Alicia (Elle Fanning), and headmistress/matriarch Martha (Nicole Kidman).

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Friday June 30 – Thursday July 6

Featured Film:

Hong Kong Cinema at the SIFF Uptown

SIFF’s got some cool stuff this week, with 35mm prints of Reservoir Dogs and Jaws (and Jaws 3D too, I guess) and DA Pennebaker’s Monterey Pop, but it would be off-brand for me to select anything but their Hong Kong miniseries as our Featured Film for this week. SIFF’s selected three newish films and two oldish classics to mark the 20th anniversary of the Handover: Infernal Affairs and Shaolin Soccer were two of the biggest hits of the immediate post-Handover period, a time of steep decline in Hong Kong cinema, and they’re playing them on 35mm (I can’t confirm which cut of Shaolin Soccer they’re playing, but they’re advertising it as in Cantonese so hopefully it isn’t the terrible Miramax cut). Less essential are the new films in the series. We have reviews up for all three of them: Cook Up a StormWeeds on Fire and Mad World.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Men in Black (Barry Sonnenfeld, 1997) Fri-Sun, Weds
An American Tail (Don Bluth, 1986) Fri-Sun, Weds

Century Federal Way:

Great Sardaar (Ranjeet Bal) Fri-Thurs
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Frank Capra, 1939) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

The Exception (David Leveaux) Fri-Thurs
Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola) Fri-Thurs
The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Thurs
Buster’s Mal Heart (Sarah Adina Smith) Sat Only
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (Greg Palast & David Ambrose) Weds Only Free Screening

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Bad Batch (Ana Lily Amirpour) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Happy New Year (Pannaga Bharana) Fri-Thurs
Tubelight (Kabir Khan) Fri-Thurs
DJ Duvvada Jagannadham (Harish Shankar) Fri-Thurs
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Frank Capra, 1939) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Tubelight (Kabir Khan) Fri-Thurs

AMC Oak Tree:

Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Pacific Place:

Reset (Chang) Fri-Thurs
The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola) Fri-Thurs
Tubelight (Kabir Khan) Fri-Thurs
Can We Still Be Friends? (Prime Cruz) Fri-Thurs
The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

Moka (Frédéric Mermoud) Fri-Sun

SIFF Uptown:

I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Band Aid (Zoe Lister-Jones) Fri-Thurs
The Exception (David Leveaux) Fri-Thurs
The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Thurs
Monterey Pop (DA Pennebaker, 1968) Fri, Sun-Thurs Our Review
Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992) Fri-Thurs 35mm
Weeds on Fire (Stevefat) Fri Only Our Review
Cook Up a Storm (Raymond Yip) Sat Only Our Review
Shaolin Soccer (Stephen Chow, 2001) Sat Only 35mm
Infernal Affairs (Andrew Lau & Alan Mak, 2002) Sat Only 35mm
Jaws/Jaws 3D (Steven Spielberg, 1975/Joe Alves, 1983) Thurs Only 35mm

Varsity Theatre:

Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

The Beguiled (Sophia Coppola) Our Review
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (James Gunn) Our Review
Alien Covenant (Ridley Scott) Our Review

Monterey Pop (DA Pennebaker, 1968)

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Ruthlessly cut down to only 80 minutes of a three day festival, DA Pennebaker’s seminal concert film captures in celluloid the moment in 1967 when a whole generation was about to lose its mind, but with a killer soundtrack. As the festival sits in the transition between festivals of the past and the rapidly approaching future (it was the first major rock festival, modeled after various Jazz and Folk fests), so the film has one foot in the past and one in the future. In the rhythm of cutting between performers and audience, interstitial shots of people (with an especial focus on beautiful women, with whom this camera crew seem particularly obsessed) and the festival environment, it’s essentially Jazz on a Summer’s Day, the 1960 concert film of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. But at times it breaks into something far stranger, as in the cameraman who stares directly into a light during Otis Redding’s set, the silhouette of the star only occasionally breaking up the blinding whiteness, or in the particularly cruel cut from Canned Heat’s blistering “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” to Simon & Garfunkel’s simple syrup “The 59th Street Bridge Song”. It’s a culture on the edge, one which would reach it’s apotheosis in Woodstock and begin its rapid decline just a few months later with Gimme Shelter (whose co-director, Albert Maysles, served as a camera operator on Monterey Pop).

Most of the bands get only a single track in the film, and some big names are cut out entirely (including, famously, the Grateful Dead, who objected to the commercialism of the project). It’s a particular shame that we only get to see the incandescent finale of Jimi Hendrix’s brilliant set (you see watch most of it, his introduction to American audiences, in Pennebaker’s 1986 film Jimi Plays Monterey). Pennebaker’s decision to devote almost a quarter of the film’s runtime to Ravi Shankar is some kind of perverse genius. But with apologies to Hendrix and Shankar, the MVP of the film is Janis Joplin, without a doubt. Her performance of “Ball and Chain” is the reason we have music.