Sofia Coppola made a couple of very good films and a couple of ‘alright ones’. In “The Beguiled” (falling in the latter category) she returns to the costume drama genre with a film playing in America during the Civil War.
In a house full of young ladies a wounded soldier in found in the garden. The soldier is a Yankee, a Northerling, and the ladies school is in the South. Decided is to have the soldier heal and send him on his way. The girls are of a variety of ages, from young to adolescent to young adult. Of course all find the soldier very interesting bringing friction among the inhabitants.
There is not much of a story to the film. Coppola more seems to aim at displaying psychological changes that occur in the group with the arrival of the stranger. Also, even though we never leave the house and its direct surroundings, the film gives an idea of what it was like in the time of the war between North and South.
A star cast drama for a rainy autumn evening, but not a film to place high on your list.
Coppola was starting to become my favourite drama/arthouse director. Her “The Virgin Suicides” (1999) is great, “Lost in Translation” (2003) has a very well-done atmosphere and “Marie Antoinette” (2006) brought a great new twist to the costume-drama genre. “Somewhere” is again a descent drama, but it did not ‘grab me’ like Coppola’s earlier films. Johnny Marco is a successfull actor whose success brought him some bad habbits concerning drink and women. Overall he is but a moderate man though. He drives extremely civilised in his black Ferrari and he does not care much for fancy clothing. Early in the film he gets daughter for a longer time than he expected and taking her into his luxery life, the two grew towards eachother. “Somewhere” gives a nice peek into the life of a celebrity and Marco is set out as a very real-life person, but like I said, nothing that happens on the screen ‘works’ for me. The film is interesting from a filmographic viewpoint though. Coppola uses very long, minimalistic shots, thus creating a very slow film, but unlike some of her other films, she did not use music to set the mood and perhaps it is the lack of music that makes the lack of mood.
Sofia Coppola made a costume-drama this time. The story is about the Viennese girl who is given in marriage to the future king Louis XVI of France and who became queen at the age of 19. Marie-Antoinette is played by the beautiful Kirsten Dunst who also appeared in Coppola’s “The Virgin Suicides” (1999). The film became a slightly typical historical costume film, but of course Coppola gave her own twist to the genre. Major stress on weird Versaille etiquette around ‘dressing the queen’ and the royal breakfast, but most earcatching is the ‘strange’ choice of music. Not just Renaissance sounds, but poprock, for example at a masked ball. Coppola managed very well to show the unavoidable end of the young kings (death by the guillotine, not shown in the film) because of the insecure reign of the king and the queen’s extreme spendings which both made the national debt extremely high. At the same time the country fell in poverty for which (not totally unfounded) the king and queen were blamed. On the other side, Coppola shows the apparent innocence of the beautiful queen, the fact that she is blamed for much that went wrong and the way she tried to maintain far away from her family and friends. The film is catching and I felt for the queen, while she was obviously not too smart in her decisions. “Marie-Antoinette” may indeed be a bit of a ‘ladies film’ (by and for women), but I really enjoyed this original history lesson with magnificent stages, costumes, acting, filming and montage. <14/7/06><4>
Bill Murray plays the film actor Bob Harris who is in Tokyo to shoot some commercials. Scarlett Johansson is Charlotte who is also in Tokyo because her husband is working as band-photographer. From the first minute Coppola lays much stress on the differences between American and Japanese culture and continues to do this in the film. Both Bob and Charlotte are lost in Tokyo, having problems sleeping, have no clue how to behave in the Japanese city and keep running into eachother in the hotel lobby in the middle of the night. A strange friendship between the old man and the young woman develops in which Bob becomes a bit of a teacher for Charlotte. A nice film with nice shooting. <27/9/04><3>