The Virgin Suicides Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review
It’s the mid-1970s, just outside of Detroit, in a suburb of manicured lawns and leashed retrievers, two-story homes and driveway hoops. “Cecilia,” notes one boy, “was the first to go.”
The Lisbon girls are a pretty quintet. They are: Cecilia (Hanna R. Hall, who played Young Jenny in FORREST GUMP), Lux (Kirsten Dunst, DICK), Bonnie (Chelse Swain, in her debut), Mary (A.J. Cook, her supporting debut) and Therese (Leslie Hayman, her only credited appearance), aged 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17, respectively. They are a source of fascination for local boys, especially so once Cecilia is found with slashed wrists in the bathtub.
She survives (for the moment–just look at the title) and the sisters are put under scrutinous watch by their parents (James Woods, TRUE CRIME; Kathleen Turner, SERIAL MOM). They still are the objects of desire of boys, who gather together to root through belongings and offer their own analysis of what has transpired.
This is all remembered in flashback. It is this structure that helps push THE VIRGIN SUICIDES to be what it is. The film, based on Jeffrey Eugenides’ 1993 novel, is not just about the Lisbon girls. It is also not about the boys, although we get warmer there. It illustrates part of what it means to be that age and to feel that way, as well as what it means to be older but not necessarily wiser in all the ways we want.
Perhaps one of the best ways to look back at times past is with a form of curiosity. The narrator (Giovanni Ribisi) serves as a stand-in for all of us who are both far removed from the past yet still captivated by it. He notes this and that, how the girls and their own lives changed. He wonders why it happened. But Why sometimes isn’t nearly as important as acknowledging that we will never have all the answers we want.
Director Sofia Coppola knows this, and, with her debut, she portrays these scenarios, characters and times as both real and a representation, an almost dreamlike combination best lit softly. Coppola achieves a fascinating feat here that would introduce her as one of the rising Hollywood talents. (Her reputation, of course, would be solidified with LOST IN TRANSLATION, SOMEWHERE and more.)
The film can’t help but be nostalgic (the soundtrack, with songs from Heart, Styx and more, helps), but it’s what it does with those memories–those kept, those altered–that makes THE VIRGIN SUICIDES so effective. THE VIRGIN SUICIDES perhaps works best almost as a nostalgic admission, a fessing up that, yes, we can reflect the best we can, but what actually happened will never fully be ours.
Video: 1.66:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “Approved by director Sofia Coppola, this new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Lasergraphics Director film scanner at Roundabout Entertainment in Burbank, California, from the 35 mm original camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI Film’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for jitter, flicker, small dirt, grain, and noise management.”
THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, shot by cinematographer Edward Lachman (who supervised the transfer), looks wonderful in this high-definition transfer–details are textured, colors are healthy, period costumes/sets are dimensional and the overall image is certainly the best the film has looked on home video.
Audio: English 5.1 Surround. “The original 5.1 surround soundtrack was remastered from the 35 mm Dolby SR magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX.”
Dialogue is clear and the soundtrack (featuring Heart, Todd Rundgren and more, namely Air’s “Playground Love”) comes through without fault.
Revisiting THE VIRGIN SUICIDES (26:12): In this 2018 piece, director Sofia Coppola, actors Kirsten Dunst and Josh Hartnett, and cinematographer Ed Lachman reflect on the production, with particular notes on Coppola’s love of the novel, Lachman’s visual approach and the music.
Jeffrey Eugenides (15:31): Writer Eugenides, who wrote the source novel, discusses his work and the adaptation.
Strange Magic (13:13): Writer Tavi Gevinson discusses the themes found in THE VIRGIN SUICIDES.
Making of THE VIRGIN SUICIDES (23:04): Footage and interviews from the production, shot by Coppola’s mother Eleanor.
Lick the Star (13:58): A 16mm short directed by Coppola.
“Playground Love” (TIME): The music video for Air’s song, directed by Coppola and her brother Roman.
Also included with this Criterion Collection release: an essay by novelist Megan Abbott.