Thursday, January 20, 2011

In Defense of Sofia Coppola, And A Link To My Review of Somewhere

There are many who call Sofia Coppola's cinema, the cinema of privilege, the cinema of entitlement, and I suppose, in a manner of speaking, they are correct.  One can also say, and many have said, the same of directors such as Noah Baumbach and Spike Jonze and (of course) Woody Allen, but when this criticism is thrown at the young Coppola, it seems to come off as much more mean-spirited than when it is said of these others.  Perhaps this is a gender thing, who knows.  My point being (and, it seems, I am really doing a bad job of trying to get to said point) that just because Coppola writes and films about those one might consider entitled and/or privileged, does not mean her work is shallow because if it.  Many boo hoo about how we should not feel sorry for the wealthy - they have money and therefore have no real problems like the rest of us - including the two friends I happened to see Somewhere with this past weekend (my wife on the other hand, like me, had none of these qualms) but when all is said and done, anyone and everyone can have problems (the old chestnut of money not being capable of buying happiness, and all that).  

Perhaps if Coppola were to make films about steelworkers or bartenders or the cop on the beat, then she may not get the same criticisms about her work.  But she does not make movies about steelworkers or bartenders or the cop on the beat, she makes films about movie stars and queens and teen beauties.  Hemingway wrote about drinking and bullfighting and Paris after the war because this is what he knew.  Fitzgerald wrote about Jazz parties and flappers because that is what he knew.  Kerouac wrote about Zen Buddhism, being on the road and doing lots of drugs because that is what he knew.  Howard Hawks made films about male comradery and pilots because that is what he knew.  Sofia Coppola makes movies about the absurdities and foibles of privilege because that is what she knows.  Somewhere is probably the writer/director's most autobiographical work to date (just put her in the Elle Fanning role and Francis Ford in the Stephen Dorff role).

Anyway, what I am trying to say is that just beacuse a person writes/directs about things and people that may seem shallow or haughty to the common moviegoer (or even those critics who enjoy badmouthing such things - and you know who you are Mr. White! - someone who incidentally, also managed to dis the girl's father in the same review, as being a boring filmmaker!? - but enough about ole Armond, he is not worth the ire).....back to my point, none of this means this same filmmaker cannot express her particular worldview, admittedly a narrow one (but not necessarily a shallow one), with a certain kind of sublime melancholy that makes her films quite enjoyable.  

There, I said it!  Of course none of this defense of Ms. Coppola changes the fact that I was somewhat disappointed in Somewhere - or at the very least, in the last half hour of Somewhere, when it suddenly became the cliche'd thing I was so happy the rest of the film was most certainly not.  Anyway, I've rambled on long enough - there is actually a review of the film (though it too is encumbered by my seeming need to defend the director to the high heavens) over at my website, The Cinematheque (linked just below), that you might want to peruse at your leisure.  You too Armond, if you're not too busy shoving your head up your own ass.


JeanRZEJ said...

People made those same complaints about L'avventura. I don't remember what their complaints were about The Rules of the Game, but they would have applied. They also would have applied to the innumerable films of Hollywood's golden age which were about the problems of wealthy people. They perhaps tried to make them about Fassbinder's The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, but they would have faced the problem that he created films about the problems of people who were rich and poor, gay and straight. So, yes, I think you can say that Coppola could perhaps assuage criticism of her films by making them about poor people, but that would merely be pandering to people who make irrelevant criticisms. What is clear is that all filmmakers who make good films about characters that resemble real people do so with the implication that their circumstances do not magically cure all of their problems. Only a farce could possibly imply that money cures all problems.

Money and power, sure, but not just money.

Kevyn Knox said...

Well said indeed. I just think that the criticisms doled out to Ms. Coppola seem like more personal attacks than those thrown at others of the same cinematic ilk. Perhaps that is why I seem to defend her more strongly.