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CRITERION

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Sofia Coppola
Cast:
Kirsten Dunst, James Woods, Kathleen Turner
Writing Credits:
Sofia Coppola

Synopsis:
A group of male friends become obsessed with five mysterious sisters who are sheltered by their strict, religious parents in suburban Detroit in the mid-1970s.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross:
$4,906,229.

MPAA:
Rated R.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 4/24/2018

Bonus:
• “Making of The Virgin Suicides” Featurette
• “Revisiting The Virgin Suicides” Featurette
• Interview with Novelist Jeffrey Eugenides
• “Strange Magic” Visual Essay
Lick the Star Short Film
• Music Video
• Trailers
• Booklet


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Virgin Suicides: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 16, 2018)

For a decade, poor Sofia Coppola existed mainly as a cinematic punchline. When her dad Francis cast her as Mary in 1990’s Godfather Part III, she fared poorly and turned into the main symbol of that movie’s flaws.

I think Sofia tried her best in Godfather III but she simply didn’t have what it took, especially since she went up against much more talented actors like Al Pacino and Andy Garcia. Her wooden and stiff work earned her savage reviews.

Ten years after that debacle, Sofia tried to branch into another area of filmmaking, one that could even more directly set herself up for attack: directing. Actually, directing and writing, since she decided to pen the adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel The Virgin Suicides herself.

Although I’m sure many prepped for another disaster, such calamity did not occur, as The Virgin Suicides showed that Sofia inherited her father’s talent. It’s a solid movie, and seems even more impressive when one considers that it’s Sofia’s first feature film.

The story is loose at best. Set in the mid-1970s, the picture concentrates on the Lisbon sisters, five lovely young lasses at various stages of their teenage years.

For the local boys, these babes present serious forbidden fruit, as their overprotective mother (Kathleen Turner) and wimpy father (James Woods) keep them off the market. Luz (Kirsten Dunst) seems the most sexually precocious of the bunch, while Cecelia (Hanna Hall) offers the most emotional vulnerable girl.

Amidst eventual family tragedy, the girls attempt to move on, and Luz captures the eye of high school stud Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett). Their interactions comprise a fair amount of the story, as do some interventions from a group of Lisbon-obsessed boys.

Suicides seems much more concerned with ambiance and mood than with any kind of proper plot or character exposition. In that way, it’s both marvelous and frustrating.

I feel like we get to know a little about Lux and Trip, but all of the other characters remain ill-drawn and vague. Even though the group of boys maintain a major component - the story comes as a flashback from an adult version of one of the kids – it became difficult to remember who was who throughout the film.

Except for Lux and Cecilia, the Lisbon girls appear similarly thin, and even the aforementioned pair don’t get great depth. Honestly, we never learn a whole lot about any of the participants.

That goes for the parents as well. Woods makes Mr. Lisbon an amiable but spineless goof, while Turner turns Mrs. Lisbon into a vaguely brittle but still harsh taskmistress. Why are they the way they are? I don’t know, as the film does little to expand upon their personalities.

In Sofia’s defense, it appears that these semi-frustrating elements all stem from the original book. I never read that work, but the various reports I’ve heard indicate that it didn’t provide a character-driven or oriented piece.

In fact, Eugenides himself states this during one of the disc’s extras. As such, one can criticize the film of Suicides for its vagueness, but one shouldn’t slam Sofia for this aspect of the movie, as she simply stuck to the source.

Despite some weaknesses, Suicides stays compelling due to the self-assured technical prowess Sofia displays. At times she seems a little too consciously arty for her own good - lots of colored filters appear in the film – but she manages to effectively convey a sense of tone that complements the work nicely. The project maintains an ethereal and airy feel that strongly evokes the era and makes the film more involving.

In addition, I really love the ways in which film integrates music into the story. Many movies toss in period songs to “place” a movie, but few do so as effectively as what we see here.

From the Heart songs that define some of Trip’s moments to the wonderful scene in which the teen boys communicate with the sisters via wisely-selected singles, the tunes do more than provide quick hits of nostalgia. They add beauty and drama to the film and make the work more memorable than it otherwise might have been.

Nearly 20 years after its debut, The Virgin Suicides remains a strong film. While Sofia Coppola has created some good movies since 1999, this one might remain my favorite.


The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

The Virgin Suicides appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became an appealing transfer.

Within the movie’s stylistics constraints, that is, as Suicides often opted for a somewhat soft look, especially during interiors. This became a conscious choice and didn’t distract, especially since exteriors looked tight and precise.

I noticed no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. The movie featured a natural layer of grain and displayed no print flaws.

Suicides presented many stylized hues, and the disc replicated these tones accurately. Most prominent are the warm golden colors used for much of the film, and these came across as clean and attractive. In addition, other hues - especially the stark blues presented later in the film - also seemed well-reproduced.

Black levels appeared deep and dense, and shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not excessively thick. This turned into a solid transfer.

I also felt pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Suicides, and the film made particularly fine use of music. The soundfield emphasized the forward channels except for the score and many pop tunes, which spread warmly to the rears.

Some effects also appeared in the surrounds, but these rarely elevated above the status of general ambiance, so otherwise it was all music from the rear speakers. The track presented the music in an engaging manner, as the tunes emanated from the surrounds smoothly. The forward speakers dominated but the natural extension to the rears neatly reinforced the sound.

The quality of the audio helped make the presentation even stronger. Dialogue seemed distinct and accurate without signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility.

Effects were clean and crisp and seemed appropriately realistic. However, it’s the music that best distinguishes the soundtrack.

The songs are bright and vivid, and the mix does a nice job of reproducing the warmth and tonality of vinyl records. We hear flaws due to the (intentional) presentation of crackles and pops, but the clarity and natural appearance of the songs seemed terrific. The soundtrack suited the story.

This Criterion release mixes old and new extras, and we start with a piece from the original DVD: Making of The Virgin Suicides, a 23-minute, four-second show produced by writer/director Sofia Coppola’s mother Eleanor. We get comments from Sofia Coppola, Eleanor Coppola, author Jeffrey Eugenides, filmmaker/father Francis Coppola, producer Julie Costanzo, and actors Kathleen Turner, James Woods, Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett, Scott Glenn and Robert Schwartzman.

The program provides a decent look at the creation of the film, with an emphasis on general topics. The show combines interviews and behind the scenes footage with movie clips - lots of movie clips.

Far too many movie clips, really, as they overwhelm the program at times. However, the documentary adds to my understanding of the film, so it succeeds as a whole.

A new program, Revisiting The Virgin Suicides goes for 26 minutes, 12 seconds and features Sofia Coppola, Hartnett, Dunst, and director of photography Ed Lachman. The show looks at Sofia’s entry into filmmaking and her adaptation of the novel, story/characters, cast and performances, cinematography and visual design, music,

Whereas “Making” went with a looser feel, “Revisiting” provides a more concrete view of the production. It does well in that regard – I’d like a broader roster of participants, but the show still becomes a strong look back at the production.

Novelist Jeffrey Eugenides sits for a 15-minute, 31-second piece. He discusses aspects of his source book as well as aspects of its adaptation and the movie. Eugenides offers an informative and enjoyable take on the subjects.

Via the 13-minute, 13-second Strange Magic, we get a discussion with writer Tavi Gevinson. She offers her take on the film and its impact on her life and career. This can feel a little self-indulgent, but Gevinson offers some decent insights.

A 1998 short film by Sofia Coppola, Lick the Star lasts 13 minutes, 58 seconds and tells a story about seventh grade “mean girls”. It feels like a 90s cousin to Heathers and doesn’t offer a particularly good effort.

Star seems more self-conscious than I’d like, as it comes across like something meant to “impress”. It’s astonishing to see what a huge leap Coppola made in just one year as she jumped from this glorified “film school thesis”-style effort to the assured, impressive Suicides.

We get two trailers for Suicides plus a music video for Air’s “Playground Love”. At first this appears to be nothing more than a series of clips from the film, but it’s actually a combination of movie shots plus material filmed specifically for the video.

We see a wad of gum as it moves from character to character and eventually falls in love with another chewed lump of gum. Odd? Yup, but it’s certainly more interesting than the usual MTV fare.

The package concludes with a booklet. It mixes credits, art and an essay from novelist Megan Abbott. As usual, Criterion brings us a useful booklet.

With The Virgin Suicides Sofia Coppola made an impressive debut. The movie lacks strong characterizations and a coherent story but it balances out these flaws with self-assured style and an ethereal aura that create a haunting tone. The Blu-ray boasts very good picture and audio along with a useful selection of supplements. I find a lot to like about this strong film and well-done release.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main