News

'Somewhere' director Sofia Coppola explores off-duty stardom

Joe Williams
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MCT)

ST. LOUIS — With "Somewhere," a Hollywood father-and-daughter story, Sofia Coppola has directed her fourth film in 11 years. That's more prolific than, say, Terrence Malick, who has completed four films in 38 years, but the modest output is a disappointment for those who expected Coppola to be the next great American director.

In 2003, Coppola became the first American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award as best director, for "Lost in Translation." Although she lost to Peter Jackson (for the "Lord of the Rings" finale), Coppola won the Oscar for best original screenplay. The Coppolas thus joined the Hustons as the only family with three generations of Academy Award winners.

Sofia's paternal grandfather was composer Carmine Coppola. Her father, of course, is director Francis Ford Coppola.

Francis cast Sofia in all three of his "Godfather" films and directed her script for his segment of the anthology film "New York Stories" when she was just 18.

Like "New York Stories" and "Lost in Translation," "Somewhere" is about a girl and a glamorous elder in a swank hotel. In this case, the elder is an aimlessly hedonistic movie star, played by Stephen Dorff, and the girl is his estranged daughter, played by Elle Fanning. The hotel is the Chateau Marmont, the Hollywood haunt where Clark Gable bedded honeymooner Jean Harlow, Jim Morrison concocted a mix of whiskey and LSD, and John Belushi died of a heroin-and-cocaine overdose.

Oh, and it's also where "Lost in Translation" star Scarlett Johansson allegedly seduced Benicio Del Toro in an elevator after that year's Oscar ceremony.

Del Toro makes a cameo appearance in "Somewhere" — aboard that same elevator.

In a recent phone interview, Coppola said her script for "Somewhere" was inspired by incidents she witnessed growing up in the film community.

"Benicio said after the premiere that it was the most realistic movie he'd ever seen about celebrity life," she said.

Coppola wanted to depict the surreal, slow-motion moments when a star is off camera.

Although she was speaking from the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, another celebrity hangout that makes a brief appearance in the movie, Coppola said it would be too reductive to call the story autobiographical.

Unlike Fanning's character in the movie, Coppola isn't from a broken home and, unlike Dorff's, father Francis wasn't besieged by groupies whenever he went out. The Coppolas spent most of their time in northern California, where Francis often worked with kindred Hollywood exile George Lucas and maintained a parallel career as a winemaker.

"It was only when we went to film festivals that I remembered he was famous," the younger Coppola said.

As for herself, Coppola said she can go days without being recognized in public. After relatively high-profile relationships with Hollywood directors Spike Jonze and Quentin Tarantino, Coppola spends much of her time in Paris, where she has two young daughters with Thomas Mars, the lead singer of the rock band Phoenix.

"I'd like to make more movies, but they take time," she said. "And my family is just as important."

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Film

Subverting the Romcom: Mercedes Grower on Creating 'Brakes'

Julian Barratt and Oliver Maltman (courtesy Bulldog Film Distribution)

Brakes plunges straight into the brutal and absurd endings of the relationships of nine couples before travelling back to discover the moments of those first sparks of love.

The improvised dark comedy Brakes (2017), a self-described "anti-romcom", is the debut feature of comedienne and writer, director and actress Mercedes Grower. Awarded production completion funding from the BFI Film Fund, Grower now finds herself looking to the future as she develops her second feature film, alongside working with Laura Michalchyshyn from Sundance TV and Wren Arthur from Olive productions on her sitcom, Sailor.

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image