theradishpress

Sunday, December, 26, 10

Going Somewhere

Filed under: cinema — theradishpress @ 11:20 pm
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by theradishpress

Life can be cyclical. The same motions, choices, events, places, people, all repeating time after time. Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere explores the idea of life as a circle. A series of events destined to repeat, unless altered by the very people impacted. Stephen Dorff stars as Johnny Marco, a Hollywood actor who lives in the famed Chateau Marmont in LA, partying with his childhood friend Sammy (Chris Pontius), and moving from one film event to the next, and having sex with a series of women.

One of Coppola’s gifts as a storyteller is her ability to present people and places as they are and through hand-held unsteady shots and seemingly sloppy framing create the illusion that the viewer is part of the story. The camera maintains a safe distance, allowing scenes to unfold. The story is not told from any one particular point of view. Music remains primarily diegetic and silence is mostly filled with the film’s environment.

Immediately as Johnny’s story is revealed the use of circles becomes evident. The film opens with a shot of the open road, Johnny’s Ferrari looping repeatedly into the frame and out of it. Is the car going to crash? Is it going to stop? Is this the beginning of the film or the end? Johnny is later in his hotel room, laying in bed with a cast on his arm after having fallen down a flight of stairs. Identical twin dancers perform on poles for him, twirling round and round. The circles repeat.

Johnny’s world of repetition is not even interrupted by the arrival of his daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning). He wakes to her signing his cast. Her mother Layla (Lala Sloatman) shot from afar and keeping her self distant from his bed, informs Johnny to not return Cleo late. It is evident that this story, that of Johnny as father, has its own cycle. Cleo spends limited time with him, and he is unaware of her life. Only later when Cleo is forced onto him as a more permanent fixture is Johnny’s routine thrown off. Cleo’s mother leaves her with Johnny, and like his agent Marge (Amanda Anka) becomes a disembodied voice over the phone.

Johnny suddenly has Cleo in his life. He begins to mold her into his routine. She attends a press tour and awards show with him in Italy, witnesses his many relationships with women, and spends time playing video games with him and Sammy. Cleo is not unhappy, but she is also overprotective and wants Johnny for herself. Sammy is family, everyone else an intruder. Cleo makes food and delightedly agrees to read scripts for Johnny. Cleo is no arbitrary name, it derives from Cleopatra, “father’s glory.” She is just that, the saving grace of a lonely man otherwise doomed to act out the same story every day.

Clues are given that Johnny is, despite his current state of wealth, a simple man. He wears old t-shirts and jeans, and even pokes fun at posh women with Cleo. He is a loyal person, as evident by his continued friendship with Sammy. His life of glamor becomes boring. The repetition loses its appeal. Many shots are drawn out, and Johnny literally goes nowhere. He is shown sleeping, showering, having sex, receiving angry texts from a past lover perhaps, and a everything happens over and over again.

The first hint of a change to his routine is when Marge says a paper wants a quote from him on his mother’s latest novel. His reaction is a clear indication that his relationship with his mother is strained. Maybe she was not there when he needed her. Does it matter? What matters is that Johnny is left with his daughter, abandoned indefinitely by her mother. Cleo expresses distress at both parents, both for being distant, both for juggling her back and forth. She is not destined to be victim of their mistakes and their repeat offenses.

Somewhere is not a complex story, and not a complex film. It is slow and simple and delicate. The beauty and the strength lie in the fact that Coppola is not attempting anything new or anything elaborate. She is what so many filmmakers forget, a storyteller. And like all great storytellers Coppola knows the simple truth to an old rule “show, don’t tell.” True to life, there is no clear end, and cycles can be broken. New stories await.

 

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Wednesday, October, 20, 10

Sofia Coppola Does Not Front

Filed under: cinema — theradishpress @ 12:08 pm
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by theradishpress

When I first saw the trailer for Sofia Coppola’s new film Somewhere, I fell in love. First off, great use of (my favorite) “I’ll Try Anything Once” by The Strokes. Secondly, it looks visually stunning. Then I saw the trailer again, and again. And I thought more about the movie and about Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette I began to hate. I started thinking “why would I want to see some pretentious movie about yet another rich over-privileged person?”

This past weekend I went to see It’s Kind of a Funny Story and the trailer for Somewhere played before the film. I realized, this movie looks well crafted and the story looks sweet. Coppola is a great director and she is unafraid to tell stories that do not end happily or neatly. And more importantly, in relation to my previous hating, she does not pretend to be someone she is not. Coppola comes from a famous wealthy family. She is not trying to tell a story about someone or something she is not. And at the same time, she does not hold her privileged upbringing over viewers. This is not the Coppola show or the “look at me, I come from a famous family” show either. It is honest, pure and simple. And why not tell stories we can relate to? After all, I admit to preferring stories about working class folks or folks struggling with racism or sexism. But above all, I prefer honesty. And from what I have seen and what I can gather from this trailer, Coppola remains honest.

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