Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Novel Is The Real Thing, Darlings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                    Baby boomers of a certain age, who were in their mid to late teens, back in 1971, may recall a film called "The Beguiled."  It was the beginning of Clint Eastwood's transition from an action figure into a serious actor, and later director.  The original had not only a Gothic grittiness, highly accurate of its time and place--rural Virginia, post Civil War--but a dream cast, consisting of, in addition to Eastwood, Geraldine Page, Elizabeth Hartman, Pamelyn Ferdin, and, oh my God....Darleen Carr!!!!!!!!!!!!   That's right, girls!!!!!!!!!!!  Sister of Charmian!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                     Now, Sofia Coppola, who did pretty well by "The Virgin Suicides," is going to present a remake of this film, with a cast featuring Nicole Kidman, Kursten Dunst, and Elle Fanning!!!!!!!!!!!  And Colin Farrell, in the Eastwood role.   Sophia has the casting idea right, but, from what I have seen of the visuals, she is going for a "Picnic At Hanging Rock" approach that may turn this tale on its head.  I will cover the movie, of course, when I see it, but I will not be doing that till early next week, because, this coming Monday, BAM is showing the original, which I have only seen in pieces, so I want to get the benefit of comparing both versions.

                                      As for the novel, it is deliciously nasty, in a subtle sort of way.

                                      The recipe for "The Beguiled" is simple.

                                       Take one part "Lord Of The Flies," by William Golding.

                                       Take one part of "We Have Always Lived In The Castle," by Shirley Jackson.

                                         Add a Southern Gothic setting, in the nineteenth century.

                                         Combine with a reputable girls school.

                                          Mix, and VOILA!  "The Beguiled!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

                                         Depending on how one interprets things, this story could be viewed in two ways--as a male castration fantasy, or a darker exploration of feminine psychology.  Sexual tensions and repressions run rampant in this, though I could not find any evidence of lesbianism.

                                           The story is simple--a Yankee deserter is found by one of the girls in the woods, near the school.  She goes for help, the women respond, but, as the soldier's stay lengthens, tensions and repressions erupt and boil over, and the table is turned, on both sides!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                             If not for the remake of the film, Mr. Cullinan's novel would be all but forgotten.  One reason for this is its fatal flaw.  The author chooses to write each chapter from the viewpoint of each woman in the school.  The problem is, while his narrative is driving, he lacks the skill to write in different voices, so that all the chapters sound the same, when they shouldn't.  This flaw, I believe is what cost the novel the status it should have.

                                               His insights into feminine psychology are so diabolical I had to wonder, at times, if they bordered on the misogynistic.  But I will leave that for the reader to decide.

                                                 Girls, I am telling you, had I read this novel when I was of the age, I would not have wanted to go to Miss Porter's!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                   And if you think Mean Girls are a product of our times, wait till you meet the young ladies of the Farmington School For Girls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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