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31-01-2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wild roses View Post
(Woody films celebrate all types of women, Sofia tells us if someone is a ditz, they aren't good enough to be in her company and we should laugh at them too).
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Originally Posted by wild roses View Post
I'm so special cuz I'm so misunderstood and because I'm special that means I'm above critique. Therefore, let me do damage how I will. My damage is my way of expressing myself and it doesn't matter if it hurts other people because I'm more special because I'm so misunderstood.
Not that you need any support but you summed up perfectly what irritates me the most about the way she envisions characters..


Great discussion guys, regardless of sides.. good read.

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31-01-2013
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Just to add, re: LIT, it doesn't bother me that she is an introspective character (i.e., studied philosophy) who feels a sense of alienation from the people around her, who are mainly talking about photography and films and modelling. Especially when she is grappling with the issues of what she wants to do with her life and whether or not she married the right person. Add to that the fact that she's in a foreign country with no friend to talk to etc., and I can see why she's sad and feels separated from the people in the bar (when she's down there with her husband). I don't find it that much different than how Alvie Singer feels most people around him are superficial and lack empathy (ref to Woody/Annie Hall of course).

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31-01-2013
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Those of you who like her keep putting forth positive reasons as to why one should like her. I do see those things in her films, but to me, the negatives far outweigh the positives.

Not Plain Jane, have you considered that maybe the reason students aren't offended is because they don't know that much about Japanese culture themselves? On IMDB, there are a few people who wrote about not being offended by the film's portrayal of Japan, but then they moved there, or started watching Japanese cinema, and now that they've been enlightened, they admire the film less. Like they appreciate LIT as a 'gateway,' but they critique it for its stereotyping. Also, when the film came out, it got a bad reception from Japanese people because they felt they were being mocked by her 'Valentine to Tokyo.' (I do Charlotte comes off better than Bob in regards to the cultural exchange, but both never try to explore the culture outside of the American stereotypes of Japan. To them, Japan is just Godzilla, and flower-making, and weird food.)

I don't think one needs to read Frasier's biography to understand the film. Feminists have long tackled history from an unconventional, non-traditional bound angle. So that's nothing new to me. And if you're saying that one should read the biography to better understand the film, then it's a failure on Sofia's part, because one shouldn't neccessarily have to read the resources to 'get' her vision. (I'm all for books and reading, but film is an art medium in itself. If I go outside the medium to 'get' Sofia's POV, then she's not doing an awesome job.)

I am going to finish watching her other films before TBR comes out, but so far, the worst to me is NYS. (Francis actually directed it, but she co-wrote, co-produced, and had a hand in the fashion and music for it, so I consider it a Sofia film. You can see all her trademarks there even if she didn't direct it.)

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31-01-2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Not Plain Jane View Post
...I assume it's because she's writing about what she knows about - that she sees the flaws in being isolated within a culture. But she sees those flaws from the protagonist's inner perspective: existential, not social or political. I think people want her to broaden her horizons, but there is something to be said for sticking to what you know.
Exactly.

That's why I like and am drawn to her style-- it's purely visceral with me. The films I've seen of hers all comes across effortlessly authentic, endearing without the sappiness, and honest without the manipulations and contrivances. Sofia doesn't cross the lines into "poor little rich girl" for me.

I can understand how you would be turned off wild roses by her characters' faults in their lack of a larger and more inclusive perspective, and I think I understand that you'd feel her characters are entitled: From an outsider's perspective, they aren't exactly living hardknock lives and they're not exactly busting their chops to make things easier for themselves in their isolation. We as viewers, aren't given huge visual and emotional cues to sympathize or relate to them in their loneliness. But, that is exactly the reason I'm drawn to them; they come across more authentic because they're not well-rounded, or even rounded people, or even fighters. I get the impression Sofia's women aren't out to beg for the viewers' sympathy or comraderie. If some aren't able to get pass the superficial aspect of her characters; mainly privileged and beautiful-- then I can understand how some would be turned off by their portrayal. However, once you give them that chance and open up to them, Sofia's ability to build an authentic and real person can draw you in, it has for me. And often times, it's her very subtle direction that does it for me; the simple but awkward unspoken moments, pause, silence between her characters are what I adore about her them. It's a genuine vulnerability that I can relate to, and those instances win me over.

It really comes down to personal taste and perspective. As for Lost In Translation, I will get around to watching that. I've lived in most of Asia, particularly Hong Kong and Japan, and I can say from personal observation that some Chinese and Japanese do view the West in much the same way that you guys described the characters less than favourable reactions/attitude to japanese culture. I can see that as simply the characters' lack of experience integrating into a different country.

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31-01-2013
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Quote:
If some aren't able to get pass the superficial aspect of her characters; mainly privileged and beautiful-- then I can understand how some would be turned off by their portrayal.
This is the most amusing defense I've read so far. Seriously. This is a fashion forum, and waht do we know about fashion? Most of the people in it are privileged and beautiful. What's the story of Hollywood through the years? Privileged and beautiful people who feel isolated. What's the story of many high society women through the centuries? Privileged and beautiful women who feel isolated.

I'm very fascinated with stories of privileged and beautiful people who feel lonely and isolated from Hollywood and high society. There are scores of stories to be found everywhere. It's not new. It was old when high society was at its height in America. It was old when Hollywood was being birthed. Sofia just doesn't tell it in a compelling way to me. And it has nothing to do with the wealth of her characters or their looks. (Again, Woody Allen's films take place in the same universe. Do I like dislike them? No. So please dearest defenders, stop implying I dislike her films because her characters are wealthy.)

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31-01-2013
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^^^ I'm not defending Sofia nor would I attempt to change your mind or undermine your perspective-- just sharing my opinion. I agree the subject matter is not original. I just don't care for the others style of storytelling or filmmaking on the subject of the beautiful and privileged but isolated characters in films/literature, and happened to enjoyed Sofia's take. She's able to strike such a personal and raw chord with me that I didn't expect on a subject matter that is all too common that I had no interest in.

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31-01-2013
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^^^Ooops! Couldn't edit; I meant undermind!

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31-01-2013
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That makes sense. Thanks for clarifying. (The next 2 paragraphs aren't directed at you Phuel, just my further thoughts on the topic.)

I'm confused though why so many people are focusing on Sofia's wealth/family connections and her characters wealth when it comes to defending her or her films. Like, rereading this topic, those of us who dislike her have barely focused on class issues. What we have focused on is storytelling, both character and arc, in why we dislike her films. Which has nothing to do with Sofia's family connections or her characters' wealth. But Sofia wealth and her characters' wealth keeps being brought up again and again and again and again and again by those defending her. Why????

George Lucas came from a humble background and revolutionized cinema, but he's a piss-poor storyteller. When he lets other people handle his storytelling ideas, his films are wonderful; not deep art but certainly good. When he writes the screenplays for his films, they are horrendous. I don't care how many insider connections George Lucas has, or how much money he has now. His humble background has nothing to do with his bad screenwriting ability. His revolutionizing cinema has nothing to do with the eyesore that is Jar Jar Binks. You can be a bad storyteller whether you are Hollywood insider or scrappy outsider.

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31-01-2013
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I recently read The Bling Ring script and Sofia's creative influence is derived from the environment she grew up in. Basically, it's writers 101 " Write What You Know". She stays in her comfort zone, but she frequently provokes the audience to reflect upon the privilege individuals who she tends to centralize her theme on. You aren't supposed to like every character, but consider how their environment creates people who project themselves as unlikeable, even in most cases they are incredibly dissatisfied with their life. The films of hers I appreciate the most are The Virgin Suicides and Lost In Translation. Sofia is talented, but her films are languid and are specific to a certain type of lifestyle, which can perhaps dissuade some people. I'm excited to see the trailer of The Bling Ring even if I know it's based on modern Hollywood which is saturated with gluttony.

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31-01-2013
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wild roses
Quote:
Not Plain Jane, have you considered that maybe the reason students aren't offended is because they don't know that much about Japanese culture themselves?
Totally! The college where I teach is loaded with a number of international students, most of whom are from Asian countries (Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan) and some from Eastern Europe, Middle East and so on. That's why I was surprised that they weren't more open to debate. It could be a cultural thing, because they might not feel it's appropriate. But I find a lot of the Japanese students very "open" to different views and maybe that's why they didn't mind? Anyhow, just thought it was kind of interesting. I know that LIT has been critiqued for its portrayal of stereotypes.

Re: Fraser's bio - not suggesting one should have to read the book; just suggesting that it could be one reason why I feel like I get where she was coming from because it kind of mirrors the book's sympathetic portrayal, so no doubt that's what Sofia was trying to capture. Sometimes that's the problem with adaptations - it's difficult to "say" in 2 hrs what a book has 500 pages to say!

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Quote:
You aren't supposed to like every character, but consider how their environment creates people who project themselves as unlikeable, even in most cases they are incredibly dissatisfied with their life. The films of hers I appreciate the most are The Virgin Suicides and Lost In Translation.
Agree about the "environment" and how it shapes people; and I also think it's true she doesn't necessarily want us to fully identify with one character in all of her films - that's especially true in Somewhere, perhaps, where the protagonist is a jerk. But then his daughter shows up and the "slowburn", to quote Phuel, begins.

Agree, too, about her strongest work being in those 2 films, although visually Marie Antoinette is pure scopophillia! Lust of the eyes :p It's almost eye candy for me on the level of a Bollywood film.

BTW, how'd you get your hands on a copy of Bling Ring? If you can't share, that's fine, but just curious.

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Last edited by Not Plain Jane; 31-01-2013 at 08:42 PM.
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31-01-2013
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wild roses - no issues pour moi re: $$$$ characters; in fact don't think I've even mentioned it. Not sure the characters in either Virgin Suicides or (at least) the Charlotte character in LIT are particularly wealthy. I totallu get that's not where you are coming from or what you are criticizing. Hey, lots of people agree with you on this forum.

Interesting thoughts abuot beauty, wealth and isolation - definitely an "OLD" story, like medieval romances or even fairy tales. I like that Sofia doesn't offer trite happy endings at least!

Phuel -
Quote:
Sofia's ability to build an authentic and real person can draw you in, it has for me. And often times, it's her very subtle direction that does it for me; the simple but awkward unspoken moments, pause, silence between her characters are what I adore about her them. It's a genuine vulnerability that I can relate to, and those instances win me over. It really comes down to personal taste and perspective.
Yep, same.

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31-01-2013
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Quote:
BTW, how'd you get your hands on a copy of Bling Ring? If you can't share, that's fine, but just curious.
The script is pretty obtainable by some quick research...

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31-01-2013
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Quote:
I like that Sofia doesn't offer trite happy endings at least!
Yes, I like that she's realistic too.

Quote:
Basically, it's writers 101 " Write What You Know"
.

Which, ironically enough, I'm not opposed to this. I think that makes the best sort of writing. I just feel her sphere is too limited. It's not a city, it's not a country estate with large grounds, it's a room in a small mansion that she refuses to leave, when there's a whole house to explore. (To be fair, Wes Anderson has found his safe zone and also refuses to leave it.)

Ha! I can't believe this little topic is 3 pages deep already. All because of one-off comment I made. (Which I will confess I was quite sure I was going to get shingled for having. It gives me great comfort to know there are others who like Sofia's style but not her films per se.)

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01-02-2013
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Wild roses: I also really appreciate your elaborate take on discussing this topic, and I have found comfort in knowing your opinions regarding her films. I feel like you have said most of what I've thought, I agree with you a lot.

Just add two more cents: when it comes to storytelling, I write stories and I read lots of stories, and to me, Sofia is really weak in building narratives and characters. One example: in Marie m, she built so much mystery around Marie's bedroom issues and her struggles with conceiving an heir, and the way she's portraying the scenario is def not subtle, or "slow burn"' but almost comical to some extent, and just when as viewers our anticipation were stimulated to a tense level, she drops the scene and round up with that scenario with just a little mentioning of Marie' brother's visit, very briefly. This is not a successful storytelling, it almost feel like an anti-climax, leaves viewers very unsatisfying.
And when it comes to the scarcity of dialogues in her films, I somehow believe Sofia is incapable of delivering interesting dialogues, it's just beyond her capacities, unlike woody Allen. The few dialogues in her films most of them are shallow and stereotypical, just listen to the dialogues between Charlotte and bob, they are so cliched! There's not much substance and by no means they are unique or surprising. And what is really annoying are her supporting roles. Can you find more stereotypical and flat, totally one dimensional roles in one film? Take charlottr's husband, the bimbo actress, the jazz singer, that Charlie brown guy, they all seem to be total tools, and completely lack humanity! Pure cliches, that's it. And don't get me start on bob's wife's phone calls. Those unimaginative, trite, cliched lines, I believe there's a far better way to portrait middle life crisis than creating an answering machine delivering some stupid lines. It's quite unbearable how she ridiculize those characters, and totally judgmental towards them.

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02-02-2013
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I think Sofia is the only director where I so often hear complaints about VERY small supporting characters not being fleshed out. Why on earth should Anna Farris' character or Bob's wife in LiT be given a complete arc? She's merely there to enhance our understanding of Bob and Charlotte. And I also think it's funny how quick people are to bash Sofia for making Farris' character so despicable/nothing but a ditz. Isn't that more a reflection of our own judgement towards the character? She doesn't do anything wrong, she's friendly, she's successful, she's kind of funny, and the "ditz" thing is probably at least partially an act anyway. Because people see Sofia as basing her female leads off herself at times, I suppose they also assume Sofia means to present them as above reproach? I completely disagree. LiT is my favorite film and Marie Antoinette isn't far behind it and although I love the three leading characters in the two films in some respects, they've also got some annoying, sometimes even despicable traits.

Anyway, Sofia is my favorite working film director. I don't really know if I'd call her a storyteller. Her films aren't about getting from A to B. And I know this is a cop-out but I could sit her all night and not know quite how to explain why I love them so much. She just takes the time to put in things other directors overlook. Smaller moments, little character details. I really get immersed in her films and I think she makes only perfect choices most of the time. I consider her films almost as art pieces. Cheesy as it sounds, they speak to my soul. They just evoke alot more thought and emotion from me than other films and I find them kinda therapeutic.

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