Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Somewhere by Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola's latest film Somewhere finds the director channelling Antonioni in her depiction of ennui and alienation in the life of a Hollywood actor. The film is very quiet -- it has very little dialogue -- and is anchored by an incredibly restrained performance from Stephen Dorff. In this film, Coppola forgoes the glitz and glamour of Marie Antoinette for minimalism and long takes where very little seems to be happening. The film is beautifully shot and lingers on its characters in a way we don't see much anymore in American cinema. Coppola's film is subtle and nuanced. She gets the most out of the material without pushing it. It is a film about moments, gestures, and glances. There is almost an absurdity and a humor to many of the scenes, where so much seems to be happening around Dorff's character and he just passively stares or gives one word answers to ridiculous questions. Unlike Antonioni, Coppola is much more optimistic about her characters and their lives. The film is about loneliness and isolation and boredom, but it feels like the film is working toward a sort of revelation, which is where Coppola wisely leaves us, with the possibility of change. The film is not a masterpiece, nor is it Sofia Coppola's best film, but the film is memorable, interesting, and subtle. Subtle! At a time when American films like Black Swan and Inception are beating audiences over the head with explanation, Somewhere is a welcome bit of subtlety and nuance; it looks and feels more like a European film, but I believe the American cinema can reclaim some of this stylistic ground again and begin making films for people who like to be challenged and have to think about what they see, instead of just being told everything in the film. Somewhere is a nice start to 2011 and gives me a glimmer of hope that this year will be a better year than 2010.

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