By Robin Pomeroy
CANNES, France (Reuters) - Sofia Coppola brought her remake of "The Beguiled" to Cannes on Wednesday, putting Colin Farrell through the pleasures and pain that Clint Eastwood experienced in the 1971 original.
Nicole Kidman plays the head of a school for gentile young ladies trapped behind the gates of a country mansion as the American Civil War rages around them. The arrival of Farrell, an injured Yankee soldier, awakens repressed desires.
"At the core of it is the power struggles between the male and female ... hopefully in an entertaining and juicy story," Coppola told a news conference after the film festival screening.
Years after seeing the Eastwood movie, by "Dirty Harry" director Don Siegel, Coppola decided to drop her resistance to remakes.
"It really stayed in my mind. The premise was something I had never seen. The original movie is from the male point of view, the soldier's point of view, of this women's world and I thought it would be interesting to go back and find the book and tell the same premise from the women characters' point of view."
"Colin, our token male, was a good sport about being our ‘object’," she said of the only significant male presence among a strong cast that includes Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning.
The film closed to rapturous applause in Cannes. Early reviews were positive, although some critics said it lacked some of the punch of the original.
"As a comparison to Siegel’s more problematic, yet also more full-throated, luridly bonkers take on Thomas Cullinan’s novel, it feels strangely unkinked and scrubbed clean," wrote Jessica Kiang on website The Playlist.
"But enough about what isn’t here, because there’s plenty that is, in particular the vivid and extremely present performances. "
If Coppola was looking for "juicy" performances, she got them, not least from Kidman, who oozes southern charm with a undercurrents of sexual desire and menace.
After wishing Farrell a gentile "bon appetit" towards the end of the movie, Kiang said, "she gets a reaction shot at the head of a dinner table which would be worth the price of entry alone."
(Editing by Richard Lough)