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09-01-2013
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trendsetter
 
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The Films of Sofia Coppola
I think I'm in the weird position of loving her style but absolutely hating her films. I'll watch them cuz there are too few female directors in Hollywood, but I usually end up annoyed at them. (And "Life with Zoe" in New York Stories is the most cloying, trite thing ever.)

(Although I do change my mind about Marie Antoinette. Sometimes I do actually like it.)

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09-01-2013
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in my eyes, she's a good stylist, but a bad story teller. and whether she is a good director or not, everyone has his/her opinion. but to me, if you can't tell a story well, it's just all style, no substance. no matter how much visual or vocal beauty to please the senses, it just doesn't cut it for me. deep down, i'm all for a good solid story.
yes, and her characters are really quite annoying, very spoilt and very immature. somehow that makes me feel indifferent toward her, sorry, i can't help it. it's kind of like a projection of herself to some extent. there's just nothing HUMBLE about her characters, nothing.

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11-01-2013
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She looks great as usual.

I totally disagree about her films being trite or whatever.

I teach film so yeah I appreciate her mise en scene expertise, which would come from aesthetic training in photography, as well as her experience in fashion. Then there's the brilliant use of sound in all of her films that she and her sound editors never fail to accomplish. She always has good people around her. (the editor Sarah Flack, great casts, etc). Moreover, I find her characters and narratives to be touching, insofar as they are all undergoing some type of crisis of identity. Her films aren't talkative; they are about mood and emotion rather than intellect.

In Virgin Suicides, you have girls who are needlessly cloistered by their parents, and who, as a result, try to blossom but then die. Here, Sofia gets to the essence of Eugenides' book imo, capturing not only the story of the girls, but the time of the 70s, too. What an excellent adaptation of his novel Sofia has made.

In Lost in Translation, you have a young woman who realizes her husband isn't who she thought he was, and a man who is experiencing a midlife crisis. And together they find a connection - largely because they are defamiliarized in a place far away from their regular lives. It allows them to see with new eyes. It's magical.

In Marie Antoinette, you have the exhibition of meaningless pomp and circumstance, with two mere teenagers who are suddenly thrust into an unfathomable position of power and utterly no idea what to do with it! Royalty, in many ways, is a truly bizarre situation that Antoinia Fraser's book captures and which Sofia effectively translated to film (the author agrees with me that it's a good adaptation) while at the same time, Sofia turns it into a sumptuous period piece with post-punk anachronisms for a modern age. It's not the least bit stuffy, like some "faithful" period pieces.

Finally, in Somewhere the crisis is somewhat midlife in nature; however, in this instance, it is mostly to do with the emptiness of celebrity and fame, and coupled with that comes the realization of the importance of meaningful connections, such as familial/paternal ones, by contrast. The protagonist comes to see, very slowly and naturally, that his daughter is his life.

So: she's dealt with broad themes like coming of age, young marriage, midlife crisis, royalty, unwarranted power, fame, celebrity and parenthood - but I would argue that she approaches all them via an existential perspective. Sofia isn't political; she doesn't offer, say, a social or a feminist critique, at least not explicitly. What she offers, consistently and poignantly, is an exploration of the human spirit in an alienated, often transformational, state. She's a sensitive soul from what I can tell, and it comes out in her films. I feel sad for people who can't see the beauty in her movies that I see. But taste is a very subjective thing.

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12-01-2013
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Very well said Not Plain Jane!

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12-01-2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YayYay533 View Post
Very well said Not Plain Jane!
I agree! Thank you for writing this, Not Plain Jane.

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12-01-2013
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Taste is indeed a very subjective thing. Even with explanations and erudite endorsements I find Sofia's pictures extremely bland and style centered without a real spine. To me, like some of Wes Anderson's movies, they're essays on "coolness" or at least what those directors perceive as such. To me they sometimes feel like conversations between hipsters, contrived. Of course I don't mean they're bad movies, I can see there' s a lot of work merit to them....they just bore me to death.
I love Sofia's style and I could watch her movies just for the styling....

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12-01-2013
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That was beautifully put Not Plain Jane! I have to agree with you completely. Sofia has a unique aesthetic that she applies to her films. I think it's possible to say her film style is not very loud, it's quiet in it's storytelling and doesn't always spell everything out for the viewer, but if they are watched closely you can get a real understanding of what Sofia was trying to accomplish. They are very sensitive, well thought out films.

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14-01-2013
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I fully get that Sofia's films deal with a wide variety of themes and experiences, I just find her characters unlikable, immature, privileged brats, who can't see outside their own experience. (When Bill and Scarlett sing in LIT, we're supposed to interpret it as deep connectivity cuz they are 'intellectual', when that blonde movie star sings, we're suppposed to laugh at her because she's a 'ditz,' even though all 3 characters share in common an ignorance and racist understanding of Tokyo.)

I love the style, film blocking, and cinematography of her films. But that alone doesn't warrant praise. I want substance, and that she fails to give me, time and again. There's no depth behind her characters. They are whatever she wants to them be for the sake of being that.

I love the 60s mod vibe of that stiped outfit. Definitely a good choice.

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17-01-2013
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Quote:
There's no depth behind her characters
- here I utterly disagree.

Quote:
I just find her characters unlikable, immature, privileged brats
- I've heard this before; this is a fairly standard criticism of her films, and a lot of people have made it by likening her characters to her, calling them and her a hipster, and so on. I am not saying that that's your take, but I've read it a lot from certain film critics.

I tend to agree with people like Ebert and other top critics, who see the humanity and depth in her characters and stories: to wit -

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/lost...pe=top_critics

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17-01-2013
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Well, I am not a huge fan of her films either, but if she can make people think her characters are "unlikable, immature, privileged," then she did somehow success in developing them.

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17-01-2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LoveLetter View Post
Well, I am not a huge fan of her films either, but if she can make people think her characters are "unlikable, immature, privileged," then she did somehow success in developing them.
Exactly! Just because Ebert and other critics say her characters have depth, doesn't mean I have to agree with them I am allowed to have ~my own interpretation as a film goer. (I didn't say they didn't have humanity. One can still be an immature brat and stilll have genuine moments of loneliness or heartbreak or happiness.)

Furthermore, trying to invalidate other people's interpretations of her films just because they're not in academia, or a professional film critic, isn't exactly a good way to make your case. We love or hate her films for different reasons, and our loving or hating them, has solely to do with Sofia Coppola herself, and how she made her films, not anything else. (One doesn't need a film degree, or a film critic, to understand universal themes or characters.)

I'm excited for the Cannes rollout of The Bling Ring. Especially for what the cast will wearing.

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17-01-2013
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Oh - let me clarify please. I wasn't trying to invalidate other's opinions, but rather was just saying why I disagree and that I tend to concur with many of the critics. As noted before, taste is a very subjective thing. One can appreciate the art in her films, yes, but personally my own reaction to them is not distanced (i.e., from a scholarly perspective); I like them on a very emotional and visceral level above all.

Quote:
and our loving or hating them, has solely to do with Sofia Coppola herself
For me that's not the case: it's pretty easy for me to separate the artist from the work of art. I like her films regardless of the fact that she made them and that I seem to admire her style etc. In fact, they could be made by an old Danish man for all I care.

I just like em!

Anyhow, i won't belabour the topic. I guess I just felt the need to share my thoughts on her films because the criticisms of them, i.e., as being shallow, hipsterish, and so forth, just don't resonate with me, even though I know that some people feel that way, so I felt like putting in a good word or two or three. Hope no offence was taken!

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17-01-2013
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I personally don't know anything about Sofia Coppola. I don't know her political stances, haven't seen any of her acting, haven't followed her personal life. I knew she was a fashionista, and an acclaimed film director, and that's it. I only started following the topic on her rather recently cuz I've heard so much about her style (which I find myself liking).

So when I say it's Sofia, and Sofia's alone, whether people love or hate her films, I'm referring to the fact that the work of art is hers and hers alone. I don't need to know about her as an artist to see her work of art separate from her.

For example, I love 'Wings of Desire' but hate 'The Million Dollar Hotel.' Both were made by the same person. All I know about Wim Wenders is that he's a German Expressionist film-maker, very influential, and has become a documentarian (if that's even a word) in recent years. But I feel WOD says much about life, mortality, the passage of time, while I feel with TMDH that it stereotypes both the film noir and mental illness. TMDH has some lovely imagery and the ending is amazing, but it doesn't make me think the film is deep or make me forgive it for "oh look a crazy person who thinks he's John Lennon." (The film uses rather ableist terminology too.)

Those of us who do dislike her films probably do try to connect with them on an "emotional and visceral level." At least I do, but I end up annoyed by her characters. And, may I remind you that it was you who turned our dislike into something that needed to be addressed from a "scholarly perspective." (You dislike her films? Well, I'm a film teacher. You still dislike her films? Well, here's what Ebert and other critics have to say! Oh, wait, even though I turned this conversation to a scholarly perspective, you're still not getting it because you're not judging her films on an emotional and visceral level.)

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17-01-2013
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I'm a fan of her... I love her style.

Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette are her best films. Lost in Translation is exceptional... I am mesmerized by the film and the culture shock/feeling of lonely that the characters experience.

Not sure about Somewhere though... It's a meaningful film but somehow it bores me.
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17-01-2013
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Quote:
For example, I love 'Wings of Desire' but hate 'The Million Dollar Hotel.' Both were made by the same person. All I know about Wim Wenders is that he's a German Expressionist film-maker, very influential, and has become a documentarian (if that's even a word) in recent years. But I feel WOD says much about life, mortality, the passage of time, while I feel with TMDH that it stereotypes both the film noir and mental illness. TMDH has some lovely imagery and the ending is amazing, but it doesn't make me think the film is deep or make me forgive it for "oh look a crazy person who thinks he's John Lennon." (The film uses rather ableist terminology too.)
Nice points - totally agree. I like a work of art regardless of the filmmaker him/herself. And it's not always consistent. I like Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation the most in this case.

I've read some articles that criticize Sofia's work because she is a privileged Hollywood child, and that indeed her characters are as shallow and as empty as her. I just find that a bit harsh. I understand that writers/artists don't work in a vacuum, so of course their lives will impact their work on some level, but to put down someone's work because of the person he/she is or where he/she comes from seems kind of unfair, and maybe dismissive?

Quote:
...you're still not getting it because you're not judging her films on an emotional and visceral level.
I didn't say that. I wasn't implying you're not getting it, I was merely clarifying how I react to the films "above all" - just saying that regardless of my appreciation of the artistry I like them emotionally even more. There is no right way; nor is there a singular way. Taste is subjective and critics disagree too. No problem.

Perhaps I wasn't clear. In my first post, I only prefaced my point with the fact that I teach film because I wanted to distinguish the artistically strong aspects of her films (e.g., mise en scene or sound) from the characters/themes that most people relate to when they watch a film (versus noticing sound, editing, etc).

I was trying to make the point that in contrast to the critique that her films are all style no substance (and other people have said this in print articles, not just folks in this forum), I see substance in them as well as style. I cited Ebert only because he and others talk precisely about the substance of her movies in their reviews (as opposed to focusing on style). I was not trying to be authoritative or pretentious so apologies if it came across as such. I merely wanted to present a counter perspective that hopefully some people could relate to as well.

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