“We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The princess is caged in the consulate. The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea. The naked woman on the ledge outside the window on the sixteenth floor is a victim of accidie, or the naked woman is an exhibitionist, and it would be ‘interesting’ to know which. We tell ourselves that it makes some difference whether the naked woman is about to commit a mortal sin or is about to register a political protest or is about to be, the Aristophanic view, snatched back to the human condition by the fireman in priest’s clothing just visible in the window behind her, the one smiling at the telephoto lens. We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices.” – Joan Didion, The White Album
Movies are just movies. They are a series of aesthetic choices made principally by a lone filmmaker in a vacuum, on set, on location, away from the quaking madness of the world, where harnessing a finished product that can speak to an audience anytime, anywhere is the end goal.
Movie trailers are not movies at all (unless you’re Michael Bay). They are two minute commercials designed to sell the final product to the widest possible audience. Ascribing any sort of meaning to them beyond your own insta-desire or dislike is a fool’s errand and beside the point.
Still, we live in extraordinary times. We live in a time when the American President is a man who boasted about sexual assault and passed it off as locker room talk. This, combined with a good ol’ boy controlled Congress getting set to hitch up its good ol’ boy britches and go after women’s rights, prompted millions of women around the country to take up protest signs and pink hats and march in the streets.
That means even though the latest Sofia Coppola Grand Appartement du Reine, a remake of Don Siegel’s “The Beguiled”, for which the first trailer just dropped yesterday, and which looks like her latest chic cauldron of atmosphere, and which stars Kirsten Dunst and Nicole Kidman which is like Steph Curry and Kevin Durant playing for the same team, is a film on which we should attempt to reserve judgment until its release date of June 23rd, well, who are we kidding? Because “The Beguiled” is a film in which a Union soldier is nursed to health by a group of women at a boarding school only to devolve (or evolve) into the group of women getting what’s theirs. Or, more accurately, it involves taking from the man what’s his, more or less makes good on Siegel’s explanation that the Thomas P. Cullinan novel on which it was based stemmed from “the basic desire of women to castrate men”.
And if the Union soldier was played by Clint Eastwood in the original, meaning he had to be the star, sort of muddling the feminist message, Sofia’s version, which seems to be bringing the women up in the mix and taking the man down, would seem more perfectly in tune to our suddenly perilous times. This is mere speculation, of course, me simply wanting a movie to be something it might not, and so feel free to lodge your complaints in the comments section. I will judge the movie for what it is when it arrives but for now please excuse me for looking through my pre-release lens and imagining it as the answer to my mournful prayers...