The Virgin Suicides (1999)
Directed by Sofia Coppola
Jeffrey Eugenides’s novel is told from the point of view of a group of men unable to understand why their high school crushes committed suicide; Coppola’s adaptation takes the viewer into the bedroom of the eponymous sisters, locating this blindness in a distinctly cinematic form. Coppola appropriates that most ontologically cinematic attribute–the male gaze–to lend credibility to the feelings of the teenage boys, but she also anchors that gaze through the sisters, who watch themselves being watched so intently and turn its voyeurism into exhibitionism. Where the voyeuristic male gaze allows the man to “win” the woman in the end, The Virgin Suicides shows the tragedy that patriarchy imposes on anyone who dare use its own codes against it.
But this is no academic work. With period-appropriate pop music (deployed perfectly, as only Coppola can do) creating moments of unadulterated joy amid an otherwise painful nostalgia, The Virgin Suicides is a loss of innocence and high-school film tonally distinct from and much wiser than most. Forrest Cardamenis (April 12, 4pm 7:30pm at FIAF)