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Tag: Sofia Coppola

Editorials, How Film Changed Me

How Film Changed Me: On Sofia Coppola

September 6, 2020

During the brief period in which I studied film at university, we didn’t talk about Sofia Coppola. There was a module on ‘auteur filmmaking’, a somewhat archaic and potentially moot theory around style and aesthetic, that covered, well, a lot of men. Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Federico Fellini, and Dario Argento, amongst others, were touted as ‘auteurs’ and, as such, they were a specific type of filmmaker that my, mostly male & straight, lecturers admired. There was one woman on the syllabus; Kathryn Bigalow, a great director who deals into predominantly masculine stories of violence and war. 

For our end of year examination, we had to sit an exam on auteur filmmaking (I mean, why?) and we were told to familiarise ourselves with two different directors to make sure we had a suitable range of examples to answer whatever essay questions came up. Choose one from the syllabus, my lecturer told us, and then, if you like, you can choose one of your own. From the syllabus, I chose Tarantino, for my sins, and then I decided on Sofia Coppola. No one told me she was an auteur, but I’d recently watched Lost in Translation, and The Virgin Suicides in quick succession and her pastel pinks and blues, her muted silence, and the stiltedness of both films stood out me.  Her devotion to the female experience, though notably middle-class and white, felt different from the hypermasculine bloodbaths I’d been watching in class.  There was a slowness to her work, a reflective quality that allowed room for interpretation and thought. 

Lost in Translation / Credit: Focus Features

At the risk of sounding basic, Coppola’s films deeply affected my twenties. The motionless malaise that she perfected felt akin to my wandering, unsettled, life.  I shifted myself from city to city, watched them all pass by in a haze of cigarette smoke. I often had trouble connecting, finding my purpose or identity, and so, someone like Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson)  in Lost in Translation felt deeply personal to me. She was a woman out of place, both literally and mentally, in a relatively new marriage in which her husband is thriving. ‘I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be,’ she tells Bob (Bill Murray) as they lie next to each other in a Tokyo hotel room. I didn’t either. For the longest time I bounced from possible profession to possible profession; actor, writer, teacher, filmmaker, and many others. Sometimes, I regret the aimlessness of those years, especially when I see people my age or younger thriving (Justin Bieber is my age, for example. As is four-time Oscar nominee Saorise Ronan…) Still, there is something artistic in that aimlessness, in that lack of direction, something in that space that is charged, and that’s what Coppola digs into as a filmmaker. 

So many of Coppola’s characters, especially her women, feel stuck. The Lisbon Sisters are stuck within an existence they want to leave in any way possible, Marie Antoinette is stuck within the social entrapments of Versailles, and girls at Martha Farnworth’s Civil War-era school feel trapped in place (a few miles from the fighting) and stuck with their repressed sexual desires. But, let’s be honest, if a sweaty and half-naked Colin Farrell were sitting in your drawing room, you’d be just as flustered. You would do anything to bathe him with a wet rag and don’t even try to tell me you wouldn’t. Still, lust aside (and because if I keep talking about Colin Farrell I won’t stop), Coppola captures a millennial longing for a particular life, one that always seems out of reach, always taunting you. 

The Beguiled / Credit: Focus Features

Recently, the trailer for her latest feature, On the Rocks, was released online. The film reunites Coppola with Murray for the third time and also adds Rashida Jones, Marlon Wayans, and Jenny Slate (she isn’t in the trailer but IMDB lists her fourth and, honestly, I’m very excited about it). The story follows another stuck woman, Laura (Jones), this time in her late 30s, as she reconnects with her philandering father and also suspects her husband is having an affair. ‘I’m in a rut,’ Laura says, she’s ‘the buzzkill who’s waiting to schedule things’ and feels separate from the life she’s living. 

It’s hard not to feel, as I enter my late twenties, and find myself with a flat, writing jobs, teaching jobs, and more responsibility than before, that the fun is slowly stopping. The rut Laura is in doesn’t feel a million miles away from my own. I’ve been waiting for my life to change for a while and yet, it’s not happening no matter what I do. I often feel monotonous, controlling, or a fun killer when I note the time, the early morning we all have the next day, or the expense we’d incur. All things which, at one time, we bore next to no concern for – at least, until afterward. 

Sofia Coppola / Credit: Mark Borthwick

It’s been just over three years since Coppola released her last film, The Beguiled, and On the Rocks feels like a small, but significant, shift. Coppola usually explores the aspirations and issues of younger women, in their teens or late twenties, but with Laura, she’s exploring the late-30s. ‘A woman is at her most beautiful between the ages of 35 and 39,’ her father (Murray) tells her over dinner. ‘Great. So I have many… months left,’ she retorts. 

Coppola is a filmmaker whose films I’m going to see. In 2017, I went with two friends to a packed Curzon in Aldgate for a preview screening of The Beguiled and I followed the news of her, now abandoned, Little Mermaid remake with great interest. So, whether I watch On The Rocks in cinemas or if I restart my AppleTV+ account (I mean you know I cancelled that the second I finished The Morning Show…) I’ll be super excited to see what this new (okay, slightly new) direction has in store. After all the madness of the past summer and almost nothing tangible to look forward to film-wise, this finally feels like salvation. 

Sofia Coppola’s ON THE ROCKS will be released in Select Theaters around the world October 2 and on Apple TV+ October 23.⁣⁣⁣⁣

Also Read: How Film Changed Me: On Trailers

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Editorials

30 Years On: The Godfather Part 3

June 13, 2020
Godfather Part 3 [Source: New on Netflix USA]

The Godfather Parts 1 and 2 are considered two of the greatest films ever made. Part 3, however, is seen as the black sheep of the series. But with Godfather Part 3 turning 30 this year, it’s time to see if it has aged well or if it should have ended up like Jack Woltz’s horse?

Synopsis

Years after Part 2’s events Michael Corleone is divorced from his wife Kay and trying to turn over a new leaf. Suddenly in walks Vincent Mancini, son of Michael’s dead brother Sonny. Vincent is feuding with enforcer Joey Zasa so Michael takes him under his wing.

Michael is also working to legitimize the family, but Don Altobello warns the mafia wants involvement in Michaels’s new business venture. Michael attempts to pay the mob bosses off to keep them away. He narrowly avoids an assassination attempt and Vincent realizes Altobello and Zasa are working together. Meanwhile, Vincent begins dating Michael’s daughter Mary. Vincent assassinates Zasa enraging Michael, who tells him not to see his daughter anymore.

The Corleone’s head to Sicily and Vincent defects to Altobello to get information. He discovers Altobello has hired someone to kill Michael. Michael’s business deal is ratified, and he names Vincent as the new Don. With this new position, Vincent decides to swiftly destroy the family’s enemies but have the Corleone’s underestimated their opponents?

Godfather 3 Critical Reaction

As mentioned earlier the first two Godfather movies are seen as two of cinemas greatest films. Both won best picture Oscars. Both have iconic dialogue that’s now part of everyday conversation. They feature incredible performances from some of cinemas best actors (Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Robert De Niro, Sterling Hayden etc.). And both are beloved by the public and critics. They are the second and third best films of all time on IMDb and have a 98% and 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Conversely, Part 3 won no Oscars, currently sits at a 69% critical score on Rotten Tomatoes, and is rated 7.6 on IMDb. An incredible dip in perceived quality. But is that feeling justified?

The Godfather (Source: Films Leaving Netflix)
Iconic poster for The Godfather (Source: Films Leaving Netflix)

The Good

Part 3 does have positives. Firstly, Al Pacino is great as an older Michael Corleone. His cool, ruthless nature from the previous movies now replaced by world-weary wisdom and compromise making him feel like his father from Part 1. Returning players Diane Keaton and Talia Shire and new faces Andy Garcia, Eli Wallach, and Joe Mantegna are also fun in their roles.

The atmosphere is also top-notch. The golden tinged cinematography and excellent score help give a nostalgic and operatically tragic feeling to the film. 

And there are some genuinely good story moments. Particularly Michael coming to terms with his horrible past and mentoring Vincent to take over from him. Which gives this entry a great sense of finality. And set-pieces like Vincent’s apartment break-in, Joey Zasa’s murder, and the opera massacre are entertaining.

The Bad

However, Part 3 has a lot of problems. And a lot of them come from it living in the shadow of its predecessors. The plot is very convoluted, like the previous entries, but aside from Michael and Vincent, no one has a compelling motivation to invest us in the action. Compared to the multi-layered characters of previous entries, this film feels generic in comparison.

The first two movies were also effective because of their realistic presentation. The dialogue felt natural and the violence hit hard because it felt so mundane. Here the action is overblown and at points ridiculous (see the helicopter assassination scene). The dialogue also feels unrealistic, with people espousing their motivations rather than using conversations to infer character motivation. There’s also an air of desperation as the movie tries to make Michael sympathetic. The Michael that series fans know, who coldly ordered the murder of his brother and pushed Kay away, is a world removed from his characterisation here. Honestly if not for Pacino’s performance it would come across as a cynical attempt to make the character appeal to a broader audience.

Finally, Sofia Coppola’s performance as Mary is terrible. It’s not her fault, she was essentially forced into it after Winona Ryder was unavailable. But her inability to emote or sound convincing is a major hindrance to the film because she has such a prominent role.

Verdict

Godfather Part 3 isn’t without merit. There are some fun performances, solid atmosphere courtesy of good-looking cinematography; a great soundtrack, and some entertaining moments. But it’s overall incredibly disappointing. Most of the characters are dull, making the twisty narrative a chore. It also lacks subtlety, with the powerful realism of the first two films replaced by overblown clichés and it features an atrocious performance from Sofia Coppola. It isn’t awful but it’s a huge blemish on the Godfather name.

Also Read: Was It Really That Bad? Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker

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