Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Films of Sofia Coppola

From the start there was confidence. There was originality. There was ambition without the desperation, a debut feature without indication of an amateur's handiwork. The two trademarks of a true Sofia Coppola film are: sparse dialogue and a notably slow pace. Coppola's narratives are always loose, though-provoking stories with an absence of the standard story arc - dreamy in quality, poetic, open-ended conclusions. The aftermath of viewing a Coppola feature is like the maturing of red wine. It improves with time: the elements, the subtle themes and the bravado displays grow in one's conscience from the tiny seed planted when it first "exposed" to the viewer. Always open to interpretation, what must be appreciated about a Coppola film is that each audience's experience is unequivocally unique to another's. You take from it what you will. No director understands her audience more than Sofia Coppola - we are not blank canvases but individuals having approached a cinema with a mind of our own. Below are all of her films ranked according to my personal esteem. 

6. Lick the Star (1998)

Sofia Coppola hits the ground running in her first and only short film - a black and white 14 minute worldly vision of adolescence. Lick the Star is essentially a high school drama but of course, being a Coppola film, it is grounded with a dark, sick twist. Queen of her clique, queen of her high school, Chloe garners an unhealthy obsession with the novel she is studying: Flowers in the Attic. Her fixation on the controversial novel inspires her to consider a most sinister form of vengeance involving the use of arsenic. 
The short is highly indicative of the cinematic qualities we have come to expect from Coppola. We have the delirium of slow motion accompanied by a loud pop song, unblinking portrayal of teen rebellion and an entirely unsentimental depiction of isolation, loss and the gilded cage they call adolescence. 

5. Marie Antoinette (2006)

Marie Antoinette was the first feature I came across of Sofia Coppola's. Amongst the countless films that flood the "historical drama" category, Marie Antoinette is surely a most distinct, singular contribution. Coppola took many artistic liberties with the historical material which was chiefly responsible for the dire polarisation of the critic opinion. Marie Antoinette is drastically unconventional. It's highly stylised form with emphasis on set and costume design is modern almost to the point of anachronism.  There exists little if any historical or cultural reference but it is important to note that this is entirely Sofia Coppola's intention. This was merely her interpretation of a marvellously unpopular queen who uttered the infamous words: "Let them eat cake".

4. The Bling Ring (2013)

Depiction of teen culture in The Bling Ring is spot-on. It's never about sex. It's about glamour and idealism and a growing greed that consumes the teenage soul. What presides is a consistent if not constant "fuck you" mentality of invincibility and self-entitlement. Put simply, The Bling Ring is nothing short of a work of art, a refreshing depiction of the spoilt LA teen - deliciously raw and relentlessly compelling. These young adults aren't mere rebels without a cause. Their cause is real and tangible: they're here to take whats theirs and to them - thats everything they can get their hands on. Coppola has visualised and chronicled a dream for our eyes to feast upon. Ultimately, Coppola's latest feature, like most of her others, is a cold portrait of modern society. It is an unforgiving look at the the delusional, ignorant beings that fall through the cracks of this deeply flawed existence. 

3. Somewhere (2010)

Somewhere is Coppola's third feature which takes on a sympathetic approach to a depressive, unfulfilling high life. The film is principally trained on one Johnny Marco, a famous actor living out of a hotel, suffering from an existential crisis when his ex-wife suddenly leaves their daughter, Cleo, in his care. Of all of her films, Somewhere is easily her most patient yet rewarding. Granted, the piece is not a particularly easy one to watch: the shots are indulgently lengthy, dialogue is notably sporadic and the plot is one realised only at the conclusion of the film. Nevertheless, the film itself is artfully crafted: the way the well-meaning, hesitantly endearing relationship between father and daughter is steadily built is a wonder to watch. The soft score becomes a sweet, constant accompaniment to the wordless exchanges between Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning.   

2. The Virgin Suicides (2000)

The Virgin Suicides is the hallmark Sofia Coppola film. Her debut feature was her passion project, the film she needed to make - the piece which immediately commanded and garnered the attention of the international film scene. 
The five Lisbon sisters become the object of desire for a group of neighbourhood boys. The events which proceed the attempted suicide of the youngest Lisbon sister, Celia, is an intriguing memo of rebellion, isolation, lust and seclusion  Produced by Sofia's father, the legendary Francis Ford Coppola, The Virgin Suicides is one dreamy sequence followed by another. Daring, inflammatory and dangerously alluring, the mystery of The Virgin Suicides is its thought-provoking power. It is easily one of the darkest teen films ever created yet it never feels too heavy or too sinister but rather simply compelling - a type of storytelling glory as rare as it is memorable. 

1. Lost In Translation (2003)

Worldly, beautifully innocent, simple and contemplative is the definitive feature Lost In Translation - the true and unconquerable masterwork of Sofia Coppola. I treasured the subtle satire, the nuances of a modern city explored by curious, wondering foreigners. The film is centred on two lonely souls - Bob Harris, an actor filming a whisky advertisement and Charlotte accompanying her fiancee on a business trip - unlikely companions in the foreign city of Tokyo. The feature is desperately melancholias but nonetheless manages to encapsulate some incredibly satisfying humour. In an almost self-referential manner, the film successfully captures the notion that in many of the most important moments of your life - there is no revelatory music. There's just the torrid rawness of reality from which the greatest beauty escapes. Bill Murray is spectacular - the performance of his career is his representation of the dolefully disorientated Bob Harris whom is both delightfully comical and painfully relatable. 

Future Projects, Adaptations of:

The Little Mermaid 
Sofia Coppola is set to direct a live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid with a script by Caroline Thompson (noted for writing screenplays for numerous Tim Burton films)

Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father
Sofia Coppola will, with Andrew Durham, be adapting the memoir written by Alysia Abbott. Sofia Coppola will also be producing the film along with her brother Roman.


  1. Love this post, love Sofia. My favorite will always be Somewhere. I don't know what it is about the film, but I so closely identify with Johnny Marco. It just works for me, on every level. I also like The Bling Ring more every time I watch it, which is always nice. Great work!

    1. Thanks Alex! Somewhere is a very special, personal film. Yep, flawless craftsmanship of Johnny Marco by Sofia and a sublime representation by Stephen Dorff.

      The Bling Ring definitely becomes easier to appreciate given more exposure. I think its just so subtly shocking the first time its hard to truly appreciate it. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Great post. Thank you for reminding me that I need to watch Somewhere.

    1. Thank you! I'm always careful about recommending a Coppola film because they're so particular and the worst way to approach them is with high expectations. I cannot promise you that you'll like it at first instance but I can promise you that it will grow in your esteem over time. Enjoy!