In film or on stage, performance is a strange thing. Sometimes, the audience values showmanship and wants to see the raw talent of a performer laid bare under the lights. Sometimes, we crave realism – some indefinable feeling that the thing we are seeing on screen is genuine and true, their soul laid bare instead. To achieve one of these is rare, the stuff of chilled spines and tears. What then when an actor pulls off both, simultaneously? And, what when both leads of a film do so? Well, that’s A Star is Born. That’s magic.
Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, a remake of a 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood, was a bit of a darling at Cannes this year. Coppola took home Best Director at the festival, which was only the second time a woman won the award. The film itself is a peculiar kind of Civil War era drama charged with the flavor of an erotic thriller or mystery. There’s a deep sexuality to the unraveling of the plot, as a single wounded male character navigates a school of isolated and curious women. The result is a tight tale of empowerment and intrigue, presented in a quiet and classical aesthetic.
It appears to be one of the most crowd-pleasing horror films in recent memory. But a crowd-pleasing horror film is something of a contradiction in terms. If everyone finds it to their liking, then how unnerving, scary, or boundary-pushing can it possibly be? I’m not saying that every horror film has to have people throwing up in the theaters like The Exorcist or scared out of their wits, but there is something wrong with a horror film feeling so conventional and comfortable.
When remaking a classic, withstanding the inevitable comparisons requires either flawless execution or inspired novelty. Disney’s latest live-action adaptation has an even greater challenge, as it must compete with two masterpieces: the studio’s own animated feature from 1991, and Jean Cocteau’s magnificent romantic fantasy La Belle et la Bête (1946). And though this iteration of the story pays ample homage to both of these predecessors, minor blemishes and stylistic issues prevent the remake from reaching the same heights. Still, a film should not be judged worthless if it fails to equal titans. Beauty and the Beast does a great deal right; it simply doesn’t replicate the Earth-shattering experience of its ancestors.