Sofia Coppola was crowned best director by the jury at the 70th International Cannes Film Festival for her upcoming Focus Features’ release, The Beguiled. It’s the first time in 56 years that a woman has taken the top honor. (Soviet filmmaker Yuliya Solntseva won for The Chronicle of Flaming Years in 1961). Coppola’s unpredictable Civil War era thriller not only won over the jury -- led by director Pedro Almodóvar and including actors Jessica Chastain and Will Smith - but critics attending the festival as well.
Adapted from the novel by Thomas Cullinan (which was also made into a 1971 film by Don Siegel starring Clint Eastwood), The Beguiled is a sexually charged tale about an all-girls school that takes in a wounded Union soldier (Colin Farrell). Led by a stern headmistress (played by Nicole Kidman, who was awarded a "70th Anniversary Award" for her four projects at Cannes — The Beguiled, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, and Top of the Lake), the female inhabitants (including Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst) of the cloistered southern estate struggle with how to treat the new male presence in their midst. Is he a dangerous enemy or a reluctant participant in a cruel war? A potential lover and companion or a manipulative flirt? Through Coppola’s distinctly female lens, The Beguiled is wrought with dark beauty and tense intrigue.
But don’t take our word on it. Here’s a sample of the buzz swarming around the French Riviera Town.
A stellar addition to Coppola’s impressive filmography
1970s pulp updated with a refreshingly female twist
“Sofia Coppola knows how to toy & have fun w/ female gaze. I’m all giddy here w/ mischief. Grateful we have her.” -- Tomris Laffly, Film Journal, via Twitter.
"The Beguiled is Coppola's most clearly cinephilic film, and it's also her most overtly feminist, a delicious retort to Siegel's original." -- Miriam Bale, W
Gorgeous to the eyes and ears
"Best of all is how The Beguiled looks and sounds: the overgrown gardens singing with crickets; the brooches and the stitches and the weave of the fabrics, from muslin to satin to sackcloth; the sweet voices singing Civil War love song 'Lorena'; and a circle of femaleness, gathered in candlelight around a lone man, engulfing and almost obscuring him in a puffery of pastel pleats and petticoats." -- Jessica Kiang, The Playlist
"Shot with luminous haziness by Philippe Le Sourd, The Beguiled exudes a dreamlike, timeless quality." -- Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
Killer performances you won’t soon forget
"Kidman knows how to find all the sweaty splendor in overheated material... but she has quiet fun with this one, including the fabulous line, 'Edwina! Bring me the anatomy book!' (Believe me, context is everything.)" -- Steve Pond, The Wrap
"Perhaps best of all is Dunst, whose softly heartbreaking performance keeps the film emotionally grounded as it skulks, late on, back into the woods and towards McBurney’s [Colin Farrell's] reckoning." -- Robbie Collins, The Telegraph
Leaves you wanting more
"By the time Coppola unveils her haunting final shot and lets it linger for a minute, her wildly thrilling new movie has made one thing very clear: Even the most prim and possessed of women have always had needs, but men ought to be careful who they f–k with." --David Ehrlich, IndieWire
The Beguiled opens in theaters on June 23rd. Sign up for the Focus Insider newsletter for the latest info on screenings and exclusive news.