The films of Sofia Coppola | News & Features | Cinema Online
Showtimes
 
Features

The films of Sofia Coppola

Writer: Casey Chong


A scene from "The Beguiled".

Sofia Coppola has recently made Cannes history as the second woman to receive the Best Director award for her latest effort, "The Beguiled", after Soviet filmmaker Yuliya Solntseva for her 1961 "The Chronicle Of Flaming Years".

Based on the novel of the same name by Thomas P. Cullinan, the film stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning. Set during the American Civil War, the story follows a small girls school led by Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) and teacher Edwina Morrow (Kirsten Dunst). One day, one of the students comes across a corporal in the Union Army with an injured leg and brings him back to their home to heal. The ladies in the house then find themselves competing for the attention of the only male in the household and that's when the psychological games start.

To coincide with her upcoming star-studded period drama, here is the recap of her previous five directorial efforts since 2000.

1. "The Virgin Suicides" (2000)

Kirsten Dunst in "The Virgin Suicides".

"The Virgin Suicides" marks Sofia Coppola's feature-length debut as both writer and director after her early years of ill-fated acting career (remember how she got lashed by critics over her widely-panned performance in "The Godfather Part III" back in 1990?). Fortunately, that particular year where she "won" the Golden Raspberry Awards a.k.a. Razzies for Worst Supporting Actress and Worst New Star has since become a distant memory.

In "The Virgin Suicides", Coppola proved to be more adept for calling the shots behind the scenes. Based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Jeffrey Eugenides, the movie tells the doomed lives of five teenage sisters (Kirsten Dunst's Lux Lisbon, A.J. Cook's Mary Lisbon, Hanna R. Hall's Cecilia Lisbon, Leslie Hayman's Therese Lisbon and Chelse Swain's Bonnie Lisbon) who all met their tragic ends during the mid-1970s. It all begins with the suicide of Cecilia, the youngest Lisbon sister that prompted their overprotective parents (James Woods and Kathleen Turner) to place the rest of their girls under house arrest. However, their parents' course of action had led the girls to become more emotionally depressed and feel isolated within the confines of the house.

Thanks to Edward Lachman's atmospheric cinematography and Air's dreamy score, Coppola successfully captured the morbid tone of a teenage drama that is both eerie and achingly beautiful. "The Virgin Suicides" is also best remembered as Coppola's first fruitful collaboration with her subsequent muse, Kirsten Dunst.

2. "Lost In Translation" (2003)

Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in "Lost In Translation".

Three years after her successful directorial debut in "The Virgin Suicides", Coppola quickly cemented her reputation as one of Hollywood's most acclaimed female writer-and-directors following her universal acclaim in "Lost In Translation". It made more than USD 100 million at the worldwide box office against a measly USD 4 million budget and even scored four Academy Awards nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Bill Murray) and Best Original Screenplay. Coppola, who also wrote the movie, won her first Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

In "Lost In Translation", Coppola once again deals with her recurring themes of isolation and loneliness to mesmerising results that plagued both of her characters played by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Bill Murray is Bob Harris, an aging movie star who is now relegated for starring in various commercial gigs-namely, Suntory whisky - in Tokyo. During his downtime, he spends his personal hours either drinking in the hotel bar or receiving faxes from his wife. Then one day, he meets a lonely twenty-something grad named Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), who also happens to stay at the same hotel. Despite their age differences, both of them soon embark on a platonic relationship as they spend their time together filling their empty voids.

Bill Murray gives the best performance of his lifetime as the washed-up actor who perfectly mirrored his own career in real life. After all, Murray's career had already peaked during the 80s and early 90s starring in Hollywood comedy gems like "Caddyshack" (1980), "Ghostbusters" (1984), "Scrooged" (1988) and "Groundhog Day" (1993), but thanks to "Lost In Translation", he is given a late-career resurgence for playing Bob Harris. In fact, his role was specifically written by Coppola with him in mind. The movie is also best remembered for highlighting Scarlett Johansson's career as a young actress who made a successful transition to playing adult roles. As for Coppola herself, "Lost In Translation" represents as a key movie that remains her best work to date.

3. "Marie Antoinette" (2006)

Kirsten Dunst plays the title character in "Marie Antoinette".

Sofia Coppola was no doubt at the top of the world after receiving back-to-back widespread acclaims in "The Virgin Suicides" and most importantly, "Lost In Translation". But her third movie, "Marie Antoinette", marks her first misstep as both writer and director. The title character, of course, refers to the real-life teenage queen (played by Coppola regular, Kirsten Dunst) from Austria who is married to Dauphin Louis-Auguste (Jason Schwartzman) of France. The movie details on her story as an irresponsible queen who caused a public uproar due to her extravagant life, which eventually leads to her downfall during the French Revolution.

"Marie Antoinette" is blessed with a higher budget than her previous two movies ("The Virgin Suicides" and "Lost In Translation") combined, and it shows. From the visual and technical perspectives alone, Coppola's third movie is truly a feast for the eyes. From Milena Canonero's Oscar-winning elaborate costume design to the lush production design, Coppola does a tremendous job of capturing Marie Antoinette's lavish lifestyle. While Kirsten Dunst carries her title role effectively, the overall content of the movie is curiously hollow and the leisure pacing doesn't help either. Both story and character development are relegated aside to make way for a style-over-substance kind of filmmaking. But style alone isn't enough to justify the seemingly endless length of its two-hour plus running time. No wonder the movie received a fair amount of boos during the Cannes premiere.

4. "Somewhere" (2010)

Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning in "Somewhere".

After toying around with a bigger-budgeted period drama in "Marie Antoinette", Coppola made the right choice by scaling down her fourth directorial effort with a low-key effort that feels like a companion piece to "Lost In Translation". Like her most popular second movie, "Somewhere" also deals with an actor, albeit a younger one in his 30s played by Stephen Dorff. He is Johnny Marco, an action star who got temporarily sidelined due to his broken arm. He spends his time nursing for recovery at the Chateau Marmont. Then one day, he discovers that he has an 11-year-old daughter named Cleo (Elle Fanning) from his ex-wife, Layla (Lala Sloatman).

Winner of the coveted Golden Lion at the 67th Venice International Film Festival, "Somewhere" marks a return to form for Coppola. Although her minimalist direction, as well as her recurring theme of loneliness, lacks the wry charm seen in "Lost In Translation", "Somewhere" successfully showcases two great performances from Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning.

5. "The Bling Ring" (2013)

The gang of celebrity-worshipping teenagers in "The Bling Ring".

In "The Bling Ring", the fifth movie by Sofia Coppola, she turns to Nancy Jo Sales' 2010 Vanity Fair article of "The Suspects Wore Louboutins" as her main source of inspiration to helm a satirical crime comedy about a group of high-school teenagers (among them are Katie Chang's Rebecca, Israel Broussard's Marc, Emma Watson's Nicki, Taissa Farmiga's Sam and Claire Julien's Chloe) who break into their favourite celebrities' home to steal their expensive clothes and other valuable items.

"The Bling Ring" marks somewhat a departure from Sofia Coppola, whose previous works were mostly low-key efforts seen in "The Virgin Suicides", "Lost In Translation" and "Somewhere". Her favourite theme of teenage alienation, notably on her first two movies, remains intact in "The Bling Ring" with the exception of being breezier in its overall tone. She made good use of her teenage cast, with Katie Chang alongside Israel Broussard and Emma Watson all delivering noteworthy performances. She also successfully captured the celebrity worship as well as today's age of Facebook and TMZ-obsessed cultures. The late Harris Savides, who died of brain cancer during the shoot, deserved most of the praises here for his first-rate cinematography. At one point, the movie is brilliantly shot in a stationary, yet unbroken take from a distant observer's point-of-view where Rebecca and Marc sneaked into Audrina Partridge's glass-enclosed home from the bottom to top floor.

"The Beguiled" opens in cinemas nationwide on 10 August 2017.


Cinema Online, 06 August 2017

Related Movies:
The Beguiled (Not Showing)
Showtimes