[REL] The Beguiled (1971)

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loverboy
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[REL] The Beguiled (1971)

Postby loverboy » Sat Nov 10, 2007 3:14 pm  3 likes

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066819/

The Beguiled is surely the most unusual film that Clint Eastwood ever appeared in. It's a rich and thoroughly strange Southern Gothic tale which is either misogynist or feminist depending on which way you look at it. It has the same splendidly sinister edge of the best stories of Flannery O'Connor, and while it lacks subtlety, it's interesting that such a perverse project could be considered a viable project for such a major star as Eastwood.
The film is set during the Civil War, in the rural South. Eastwood plays a soldier, John McBurney, who has been badly wounded and is dying in the woods when he is found by a young schoolgirl. She acts as his guardian angel, taking him back to her private girls' school, a respectable but decidedly repressed establishment run by the equally repressed Martha Farnsworth. McBurney is taken in, despite being a Yankee, and nursed back to health, the only man in the place and a natural target for the attentions of the young women. The film follows his manipulation of his admirers and his growing relationship with Martha - it seems for a while that the dominant masculine sexuality has triumphed in playing the girls off against each other, but McBurney hasn't counted on the cost of his casual seductions. He hopes to persuade the women that he shouldn't be shopped to the Confederate army, but his plan backfires. Soon, the tables are turned upon him with devastating skill, and the hunter becomes the prey almost without realising it.
This is a compelling and deeply unsettling film, because like most good Southern Gothic Horror, it reveals that the true darkness lies behind the outward normality of everyday life. The respectable school becomes an inferno of sexual jealousy, ignited by McBurney's unthinking sexism and his dismissal of the power of female sexuality. One could interpret the film as being misogynist, in that it suggests that women are only nice on the surface, but really insanely jealous monsters who will castrate a man as soon as look at him - the castration that McBurney suffers is not literal, but symbolic - albeit nearly as painful. On the other hand, you could read the film as being feminist in that it reveals just how manipulative and cruel a dominant male can be, and suggests that he deserves everything that he gets. We're back, in other words, in Don Siegel's usual territory of ingrained ambiguity - similar problems of interpretation are found in several of his films, notably his two seminal movies, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and Dirty Harry. I suspect he delights in throwing crumbs to all sorts of viewpoints, while being very careful not to pin the film down to any one analysis.
Whatever you make of the film's sexual politics, there's no doubt that it is a riveting and very unnerving film, full of interesting performances. Clint Eastwood is excellent as the ambivalent McBurney, neither sympathetic nor villainous, and his performance in the last half hour is as good as anything he has ever done. All the younger women are memorable actresses, with Elizabeth Hartman standing out as the teacher. Mae Mercer is amusingly cutting as the black maid, but the standout performance comes from Geraldine Page, a great stage actress who rarely found films worthy of her talent. She makes Martha Farnsworth more than merely a castrating bitch, but a woman whose sexual repression comes from a lifetime of self-denial and submission to male patriarchy. In the girls school, she has found a refuge where men are irrelevant, but the appearance of McBurney brings back all of her doubts and fears about sexuality. It's a great performance and deserves to be more widely known. As usual, Eastwood is at his best with a strong actor to work with, and Page is one of the best adversaries he has ever encountered.
The great Bruce Surtees worked on the film as director of photography, and his contribution is constantly stunning. The opening shift from nostalgic sepia to rich colour is expertly achieved, and he brings his usual skill at low lighting conditions to the school scenes, where there always seems to be a shadow at the edge of the frame that can't quite be accounted for. The flavourful music score by Lalo Schifrin adds to the atmosphere. The script isn't always as good as the visuals, with some of the girls' dialogue being insipid rather than charmingly naive - and Eastwood's character in the first third is slightly undefined, depending on the actor's presence to a greater degree than you would expect. However, Don Siegel makes this chamber drama both pacy and exciting. The central medical scene - which I won't spoil - is memorably brutal, and the final twist of the knife in the last act is directed with great finesse. He uses some interesting camera angles to suggest disorientation, and the first appearance of Eastwood as some hulking beast is a nice touch.
The Beguiled is a very odd film indeed, and it isn't likely to please fans of Eastwood's action movies. But it's a brave experiment to do something a little bit different, and overall it is very successful. It seems to have influenced some of Eastwood's own work, such as his directoral debut, the classic Play Misty For Me. The world of the Southern Gothic - more than a touch of Ambrose Bierce as well as O'Connor - is evoked with loving skill, and it's interesting to watch this film along with John Huston's Wise Blood, another film about the horror which lies behind the everyday facade of the American South. The difference is that Huston goes for absurdist black comedy while Siegel plays it fairly straight, but it's interesting to see two great American directors tackle such an interesting literary genre.



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terry666
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Re: [REL] The Beguiled (1971)

Postby terry666 » Sat Nov 10, 2007 3:59 pm  0 likes

Very nice addition to the collection of movies here. Thanks.
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ARTHORIUS
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Re: [REL] The Beguiled (1971)

Postby ARTHORIUS » Sat Nov 10, 2007 11:41 pm  0 likes

I think i have alreay posted here sometime ago but with another title...El seductor i suppose... :think
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ARTHORIUS
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Re: [REL] The Beguiled (1971)

Postby ARTHORIUS » Sat Nov 10, 2007 11:45 pm  0 likes

ok revealed the mistery ;) ....i've d/l the version in spanish called el seductor same actors same years...but i don't have posted here cause i was thought was off-topic....maybe i was in wrong ;)

here's the link confirmed the title in spanish not mentioned in imdb database

http://www.alohacriticon.com/elcriticon ... e1110.html
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idler
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Re: [REL] The Beguiled (1971)

Postby idler » Sun Jun 13, 2010 1:40 pm  4 likes

...subtitle pack included (for emuler).

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