18 December 2010

SOMEWHERE (Dir. Sofia Coppola, 2010, US) - A Face In The Crowd

An unexpected recipient of the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival, Sofia Coppola’s latest film Somewhere stoked controversy in the Italian media with accusations of favouritism concentrating on Tarantino who headed up the jury and handed out the award to his friend. I can certainly see why Tarantino would show some bias but Coppola’s critique on film celebrity culture is certainly one of the best American films of the year. Marie Antoinette was somewhat disappointing coming after the strong authorial instincts of The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation. A period film and made on a much larger canvas, Marie Antoinette perhaps indicated Coppola may struggle to extend her range as a director when taken out of her comfort zone. The failure of Marie Antoinette has predictably brought Coppola back to familiar themes of emotional disconnection and alienation whilst the American independent aesthetic that marked both The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation is clearly evident throughout Somewhere. The narrative is barely existent focusing on a hedonistic film star Johnny Marco, played by Stephen Dorff, forced to re-examine his banal, superficial lifestyle after his 11 year old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) comes to stay with him at the Chateau Marmont Hotel on Sunset Boulevard. In terms of style, this is Coppola's most restrained and observational film to date as it is focuses entirely on a single character whilst utilising fixed camera positions. Thematically, the crisis of contemporary stardom and the emptiness of celebrity culture are intertwined, emerging from a semi autobiographical vein. One could argue that Coppola is playing it safe by returning to more familiar territory in which she certainly feels more confident as a director but nevertheless her strengths as an independent American film maker are still developing and Somewhere proves yet again she is as reflexive and original as her contemporaries.

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