“Okja” & “The Beguiled”
In the movie The Hero, Nick Offerman tells Sam Elliot that he doesn’t like to hear other people talk about their dreams. Elliott asks Offerman if he likes movies. Because movies are other people’s dreams.
A couple of films available this week could very well put the viewer in a dream state.
The Beguiled beckons those seeking a gothic psychodrama while Okja literally defies easy description. One film will be available to Houston audiences at select theatrical venues while the other will be streaming on the interweb.
It’s not likely that the average adventurous moviegoer has seen the 1971 version of the Civil War drama The Beguiled, directed by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood. While a cult film in its own right it’s not classic in the sense of Eastwood’s iconic roles from that period. Sofia Coppola has made a version of The Beguiled that immerses itself into the mood and texture of the story.
Siegel’s version remains superior mainly because Eastwood dominates the film in a way no actor working today could possibly hope to emulate. Despite the typical studio hard lighting used throughout the film, Siegel finds ways to ratchet up the suspense that aren’t present in the contemporary remake.
That being said, Coppola envisions a moody environment where natural light plays a part in the proceedings. The Spanish moss hanging off the trees illuminated by shafts of sunlight and the shadowy interiors makes the story more complicated than it is.
Union soldier Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell), wounded and wandering in the forest in enemy territory, takes refuge at an academy for young women. At first their Southern allegiance dictates that they turn him over to Rebel troops. But since his injuries require extended medical care, a bond forms.
Nicole Kidman (Miss Martha) runs that academy with help from Kirsten Dunst, sharing time with other co-stars like student Elle Fanning. During the arc of the story McBurney interacts with all of the women while he’s healing.
Whose room McBurney chooses to visit at night when he becomes well enough to walk forms the basis for the revenge thriller that follows.
There’s so much attention to atmosphere and costumes that it may be hard to notice that much of the life has been sucked out of the story.
The Beguiled opens at area theaters including The River Oaks on Friday.
Okja plays like a kid’s film that’s made for adults. South Korean director Bong Joon-ho shows a visionary insight into the relation between human and animal.
A nefarious corporation has bred superpigs at locations around the world. In the forest of Korea a young girl Mija (An Seo Hyun) grows up with one of these massive beasts, affectionately named Okja, which matures to the size of an Asian elephant.
Much of the interaction uses puppetry and the cute aspect of the girl and her pet pig reminds one of the German fantasy film The Neverending Story (1984). That tone changes when Joon-ho shifts the story to New York and elements of Fast Food Nation take over.
Tilda Swinton plays sisters who run the multi-national company that owns the superpigs. A strong supporting cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal playing a wacky scientist and members of the Animal Liberation Front who have their own agenda for Okja. Co-stars include Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood), Lily Collins (Rules Don’t Apply) and Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead).
Joon-ho finds clever ways to weave social commentary and satire together. Okja also uses John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” in a most sardonic way.
Okja is available to watch through Netflix.