7:30 PM, 1st September, 2017
At the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, Sofia Coppola became only the second woman in the festival’s 70-year history to win the Best Director prize. She did so with The Beguiled, which has also earned the most favourable reviews for a film by any Coppola since her own 2003 masterpiece, Lost in Translation.
The film follows an Irish immigrant (Farrell) in 1864 who is desperately looking for a way out of the American Civil War. He ends up taking refuge in an all-girls schoolhouse run by a devout Christian headmistress (Kidman). As its sheltered young women provide refuge and tend to the man’s wounds, the house is taken over with sexual tension and dangerous rivalries, and taboos are broken in an unexpected turn of events.
At a runtime of just 94 minutes, Coppola has stripped Thomas P. Cullinan’s source novel – the basis for a male-centric 1971 Clint Eastwood-starring adaptation – down to its bare bones, and flipped it on its head. The end result is the most narratively structured film of her career, and also the most conventionally entertaining.
The reliably brilliant Farrell and Kidman give impressive performances, but it is Kirsten Dunst who steals the film as the lonely school teacher’s assistant. It is refreshing to see such fully realised characters with their own agencies and temptations, so much so that when Farrell’s character at one point screams, “You vengeful bitches!”, it is as empowering as it is riveting.
9:14 PM, 1st September, 2017
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover is a true creative masterpiece in all aspects. Released in 1989, this lavish black comedy/drama combines great acting with striking visuals.
The story involves the owner of the La Hollandaise restaurant, Albert (Gambon); his assembled sycophants; his wife, Georgina (Mirren); the chef, Richard (Bohringer); and a stranger, Michael (Howard), who quietly eats at the restaurant. Albert is an utterly despicable person, treating the restaurant staff and customers horribly. But his worst treatment is reserved for Georgina whose boredom and despair lead her into the arms of Michael.
Director Peter Greenaway lends a dominant colour treatment to each room of the restaurant, even changing the clothing of the characters when they walk from one room to another. This is a film that genuinely warrants several viewings in order to take it all in. When I first saw it in the mid ’90s, it was unlike anything I had seen before, and is still unlike anything I have seen since.
If true art is meant to move people in an emotional way, then The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover pushes viewers to experience a range of emotions with a remarkable intensity. Intoxicated by both its gorgeous imagery and terrible savagery, viewers will certainly be left utterly stunned by the experience of watching it.