Producer’s Film Picks for July 2017

The theme for this month – Principles Be Damned

Theatrical release

The Beguiled (2017)

Written by Thomas Cullinan, Albert Maltz, Irene Kamp and Sofia Coppola. Directed by Coppola (The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation.)
Starring Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence and Angourie Rice.

“Coppola’s The Beguiled is another of her too-cool-for-school exercises in dry ice dramaturgy. A remake of the 1971 Clint Eastwood film of the same name, it squanders an enticing premise: A wounded Union soldier in the Civil War, corporal John McBurney (Farrell, in full Irish brogue), is taken in by a group of Southern female teachers and students living by themselves in an isolated mansion. As he is nursed back to health, machinations ensue as the various women vie for the man’s affections.” Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

“The Beguiled is indeed a bewitching portrait of strong, competent women facing down the potential threat of a male intruder in the confines of the seminary’s safe haven. To paraphrase David Byrne, this ain’t no party, but there is plenty of time for fooling around, a looming realization that concerns headmistress Martha Farnsworth (Kidman), who’s clearly all aflutter herself.

“Farrell takes on the original’s Eastwood role as the bearded and bloodied blue-belly, initially found in the woods by Miss Martha’s youngest charge, little Amy (Laurence) while she’s out picking mushrooms. Farrell, employing his native Irish brogue as mercenary Corporal McBurney, enjoys the ministrations of these chaste ladies while he recovers, but as soon as his injuries allow, he’s up and at ’em, in particular Miss Martha and assistant Edwina (Coppola veteran Dunst), the latter of whom longs for something more than the genteel Southern sexual limbo she’s currently inhabiting. The corporal turns out to be a master manipulator, but the real power ultimately lies with the headmistress, whose actions proceed from ‘Christian charity’ to repressed desire, and from there to ‘hell hath no fury’-land with steely, believable ease.” Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle

“So it is up to Martha to give McBurney a business-like sponge bath. Edwina, the school’s teacher, is at first not interested in their guest but soon she is confessing to him her longing to leave the confines of the school. Eighteen-year-old Alicia (Fanning) is the most aggressive in her interest in McBurney and they kiss a few times. So McBurney now has the attention of Amy, Edwina and Alicia.

“While McBurney heals, the girls visit him and begin dressing in their finest gowns. Each start to fantasize a romance with McBurney. McBurney is quick to realize that he has excited the interest of the bored, lonely women and starts to play on their emotional needs. What is McBurney’s devious plan?” Victoria Alexander, Films in Review

“So lest we take things too seriously, Coppola employs a pink cursive script for the title card, embellished with flourishes and compressed slightly from both ends. It calls to mind a trashy and inconsequential romance novel, which, when punctuated with the film’s moments of violence, wounds, and blood, feels more hilarious than horrifying. In fact, it’s the mashed up stylistic markers of The Beguiled that make it so effective, especially as they skitter across the revenge plot humming along beneath the surface. As a film, The Beguiled is thrilling, delicious, wicked fun.” Alissa Wilkinson, Vox

“She has no interest in the politics of the time, no interest in the social distinctions among the women in the house, no interest in the history that leads to the situation onscreen. Clearly, what interests her in the story of The Beguiled, both book and film, is the same thing that interested her in The Virgin Suicides or Marie Antoinette: the idea of women living in isolation, or, in the case of The Beguiled, of women who, separated from men, receive a man as a sort of dangerous pet. Coppola’s Civil War is itself an abstraction—a reduction of a complex historical and political phenomenon to one particular, largely erotic and romantic crisis involving a group of white women.” Richard Brody, The New Yorker

“And so the quiet menace that infuses The Beguiled, the almost serene sense of the sinister, feels as potent and as relevant as, say, Jane Austen still does. In Coppola’s hands, this feels like what might happen if Austen wrote a horror movie. Coppola won Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival this spring — only the second time a woman has earned the acclaim — and it is well deserved: that same unspoken dread extends to the lush visuals and sultry atmosphere, wherein shafts of sunlight sparkle prettily and hazy sunsets are beautiful only because of the gunsmoke drifting in from nearby battles. Still, Coppola’s decision to tell a story set in one of the most racially contentious times and places in all of history and not include a single black character is rather bizarre.” MaryAnn Johanson, Flick Filosopher

Archival films
Mustang (2015)
Written by Alice Winocour and Deniz Gamze Ergüven. Directed by Ergüven.
Starring Günes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan and Nihal G. Koldas.


“Some of what we see here is extreme compared to supposedly more enlightened Western cultures, though not all of it: the older sisters’ ideas about how you can have sex and retain the technically required female (but never male) virginity sounds an awful lot like what fundamentalist Christian kids in the U.S. believe. We might like to think Mustang is far removed from our ideas of ‘proper’ womanhood, but it isn’t. More’s the shame to all of us. Yet I am hopeful: this is the kind of wonderful, unexpected, necessary film we get when women — such as writer (with French screenwriter Winocour) and director Gamze Ergüven, a Turkish-French filmmaker — give voice to the stories they have to tell. If only others will listen.” MaryAnn Johanson

The Witch (2015)
Written and directed by Robert Eggers.
Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson.


“Puritanical religion, paranoia, and familial distrust – particularly of young women – are at the pitch-black center of first-time feature director Robert Eggers’ slow-burning descent into madness and mayhem in 1630s New England. The Witch, which made its Austin debut at Fantastic Fest 2015, arrives in theatres with a slew of festival awards behind it and the kind of buzz that makes it a must-see for fear fans and audiences sick to death of the found-footage glut that’s coagulated the horror market for going on a decade now. Put simply, The Witch is a near-masterpiece of creeping dread and hallucinatory imagery.” Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle




The Beguiled is currently at The Grand Cinema.
Mustang will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, July 7 in the Center for Spiritual Living (206 N. J St).
The Witch will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, July 14 in the CSL.

The TFC Discussion Night for these three films is Wednesday, July 19 in the CSL.

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