Blog Directory CineVerse: A tale of 5 sisters

A tale of 5 sisters

Thursday, December 7, 2017

There's a haunting visual lyricism and nonverbal poetic beauty infused in Sofia Coppola's "The Virgin Suicides" that helps this film rise above your standard crop of coming-of-age movies about the challenges of adolescence. It's striking how the narrative skips and jumps around the collective memories of the boys telling the story, often providing short and incomplete portions of a scene or shot that would likely have been fleshed out by other filmmakers with more exposition and detail. The effect, like an impressionistic painter, is to provide just enough of a glimpse at a moment in time for the viewer to figure things out for themselves about a character or situation. Instead of taking the audience from A to B to C to D, "The Virgin Suicides" often goes right from A to D, forcing the viewer to figure out what happened in between on their own. That can be challenging and frustrating for some, but rewarding for others who like to come to their own conclusions about the story and the people that populate it. There was a lot to discuss during last night's review of this film. Here are the points most noteworthy:


  • It’s directed by a woman but told from the point of view of males – consider that the original novel was written by a man and concerns the nostalgia men feel for females they felt were out of their leak or unattainable when they were younger. Coppola has intuitive sensibilities that aren’t limited by her gender, and she seems tap truthfully into the feelings of awkward teenage boys. 
    • Salon reviewer Stephanie Zacharek wrote: “In the old days, you might have said those girls were imprisoned in the male gaze. But Coppola's picture is completely nonjudgmental about the narrators' love for the Lisbon girls…The picture has a feminine sensibility in terms of its dreamy languor, the pearlescent glow that hovers around it like a nimbus.” 
  • The point of view is detached and distanced, coming from the males who put the Lisbon girls on a worshipful pedestal; hence, many questions remain unanswered and the reasons why the girls chose to kill themselves remain enigmatic and mysterious. This is more of an open-ended film with unresolved issues and unanswered character motivations; but these loose ends are fitting, considering that we’re getting the testimony of boys who didn’t know the girls very well and are reminiscing them through the sentimental but subjective lens of their observations. 
    • This film isn’t preoccupied with solving the mystery of why the girls committed suicide and answering every practical question; instead it’s concerned with reminiscing, reflecting, and romanticizing the past. 
  • Despite its ominous title and somber subject matter, the movie isn’t too depressing or emotionally overwhelming. It’s arguably infused with a feel-good visual poetry and enough smile-worthy moments to keep viewers from feeling the blues throughout. 
  • "The Virgin Suicides” is also ineffective period piece that harkens sentimentally to a bygone era and a time when teenage love was likely felt and treated differently than today. 
  • The conflict between internal and external forces. In an essay for The Dissolve, Genevieve Koski wrote: “All of Coppola’s films reveal themselves as being about characters seeking a balance between their inner and outer lives.” 
  • Isolation and alienation. 
  • Inner and outer reflection, as exemplified by the motif of reflective images via glass or windows. 
  • “Material possessions as signifiers of an internal life,” according to Koski. “The various baubles and trinkets populating (Coppola’s) films become outward signifiers of an internal emptiness of some kind or another.” Some of these material possessions include photos, makeup, candles, bras, tennis shoes and other artifacts. 
  • An American preoccupation with happiness, keeping up appearances, and maintaining the status quo. Consider how Mr. Lisbon is focused on the TV baseball game when the priest visits to console the family over the suicide of their daughter. 
  • How memory fades and decays over time. 
  • How ordinary, mundane life can be horrific. 
  • The inability to look beyond the surface: the boys infatuated with the Lisbon sisters limit their feelings and experiences to what they can see. 
  • Ordinary People 
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock 
  • Carrie 
  • Stand By Me 
  • My Summer of Love 
  • Girl, Interrupted 
  • Prozac Nation 
  • American Beauty 
  • Lost in Translation 
  • Marie Antoinette 
  • Somewhere 
  • The Bling Ring 
  • The Beguiled

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