Film Lost and found Sofia Coppola talks to James Mottram about Californian hedonism, buddy movies and working with family
THE BEST FILM & DVD RELEASES
✽✽ Monsters Brilliant low budget creature feature. See interview, opposite and review, page 46. General release from Fri 3 Dec. ✽✽ Of Gods and Men Faith, duty and fundamentalism questioned in powerful French drama. See review, page 46. GFT, Glasgow & Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 3 Dec. ✽✽ Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale Refreshingly perverse Yuletide thriller from Finland. See review, page 46. Selected release from Fri 3 Dec. ✽✽ Somewhere Writer/director Sofia Coppola returns with an intimate portrait of hedonism and celebrity in LA’s Chateau Marmont Hotel. See preview, left and review, opposite. Selected release from Fri 10 Dec. ✽✽ Peeping Tom Restored re- issue of Michael Powell’s seminal 1960 slasher. See profile, index, read essay at www.list.co.uk and see Also Released, page 47. Cameo, Edinburgh, Fri 3–Thu 9 Dec (matinees only). ✽✽ An Ordinary Execution Drama based on true story about the relationship between Stalin and a young female doctor. See review, page 47. Cameo, Edinburgh, Fri 10–Thu 16 Dec (matinees only). ✽✽ Robinson in Ruins Third part of Patrick Keiller’s amazing ‘Robinson trilogy’. Showing as part of Keiller season. See profile, index. Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 10–Mon 13 Dec. ✽✽ The American Stylish, slow burn hitman fable starring George Clooney. General release, out now. ✽✽ A Bay of Blood Mario Bava’s seminal eco horror re- issued on DVD and Blu-ray with a ton of extras. See DVD panel, page 57. Out Mon 20 Dec (Arrow).
To describe Sofia Coppola’s career as one of extremes is no exaggeration. Lambasted as an actress when she appeared in her father’s lamentable The Godfather Part III, she’s been celebrated as a director – not least for 2003’s Lost in Translation, which won her an Oscar. While she followed this with poppy period piece Marie Antoinette, which was roundly booed in Cannes, in keeping with tradition, the 39-year-old now returns with minimalist drama, Somewhere. Such is life when you’re the daughter of a film legend like Francis Ford Coppola.
Already Somewhere has won the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion, simultaneously re-launching the career of Stephen Dorff, who plays Johnny Marco, an A-list star who lives and parties at the infamous Chateau Marmont hotel with little concern that he may become the next John Belushi. Whoever he’s based on – Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp and even Heath Ledger spring to mind – Coppola says the idea came to her after hearing ‘a bunch of stories’ about hedonistic actors out of control. ‘It got me thinking, “I’m sure it looks great but it can’t be that fulfilling.”’
If Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette offered Coppola’s outsider perspective on Tokyo and 18th century Versailles respectively, Somewhere is her take on a city she lived in during her 20s. Inspired by ‘classic’ LA-set movies like Shampoo – ‘I felt like we hadn’t had an LA movie in a while’ – it made her feel nostalgic for the city before it became overrun with paparazzi. ‘It seemed more innocent then. I think just seeing how it’s changed made me want to write about LA at this time and our pop culture.’ 44 THE LIST 2–16 Dec 2010
Yet it was another 1970s film, Paper Moon, which starred Ryan and Tatum O’Neal as a con-artist team, that influenced Coppola’s thinking for the film’s core relationship between Johnny and his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning). ‘I loved their relationship in that movie,’ says Coppola. ‘So I wanted to have that kind of sweet buddy relationship. I wanted it to be tender. Johnny’s character was so flawed and unlikeable that he had to have a loveable side.’ If the redemption that family can provide proves to be a central theme, it’s no surprise. Pregnant with her second daughter, Cosima, during the shoot, Coppola’s first child, Romy, was born just before she wrote the script. What’s more, with her older brother Roman producing, her long-term boyfriend Thomas Mars, and his band Phoenix, provided the soundtrack cuts. Coppola attributes this to her father’s influence. ‘He always worked with his family and also he worked with people for a long time so they became like family. That’s my example of how to work.’
What is curious is why Coppola keeps returning to characters that are lost – be it in translation, the French court or in Entourage land – particularly now she’s a settled mother of two. ‘I’ve had moments of my life going through a transition, coming through the other side to go in a new direction,’ she counters, doubtless referring to the failure of her four-year marriage to director Spike Jonze. So what is it about being lost? ‘It just interests me but I don’t know why,’ she shrugs. ‘I don’t analyse stuff. It’s not my job.’
Somewhere is on general release from Fri 10 Dec. See review, page 46.
‘HEDONISM LOOKS GREAT BUT IT CAN’T
BE THAT FULFILLING’