Friday, December 31, 2010


Sofia Coppola: Somewhere (2010).

Somewhere / Somewhere.
    US © 2010 Somewhere, LLC. EX: Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Rassam, Fred Roos. P: G. Mac Brown, Roman Coppola, Sofia Coppola.
    D+SC: Sofia Coppola. DP: Harris Savides – shot on 35 mm – digital intermediate: Company 3. PD: Anne Ross. COST: Stacey Batta. MAKEUP: Darlene Jacobs. HAIR: Natalie Driscoll. M: Phoenix. – Played by Johnny Marco: a piano transcription of: J. S. Bach: Chaconne from the partita in D minor for solo violin (BWV 1004). – Sung by Romulo: "Teddy Bear" (written by Kal Mann, Bernie Lowe for Elvis Presley, 1957). S: Richard Beggs. ED: Sarah Flack.
    C: Stephen Dorff (Johnny Marco), Elle Fanning (Cleo).
    With: Chris Pontius (Sammy), Michelle Monaghan (Rebecca), Kristina Shannon and Karissa Shannon (Bambi and Cindy), Lala Sloatman (Layla).
    98 min
    Released in Finland by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Katja Paanala / Carina Laurila.
    A 35 mm print viewed at Maxim 1, Helsinki, 31 Dec 2010 (day of Finnish premiere).

Sofia Coppola is at her best in her fourth feature film. (I have liked them all except Marie Antoinette.) The protagonist of the story is the film star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff). He is staying at the Château Marmont hotel on Sunset Boulevard when he receives an unexpected visit from his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning).

The film starts with Johnny driving in circles in his Ferrari and falling asleep in his own hotel bed watching a private pole dancing show of Bambi and Cindy. One might call Sofia Coppola's approach satiric or ironical but most of all I felt it is humoristic.

For many, Johnny's lifestyle would be "a dream come true". Actually it is gloriously boring.

I was thinking about Gone With the Wind which I revisited two weeks ago – Rhett Butler's transformation by his daughter Bonnie Blue. Something similar happens when Johnny meets Cleo. Johnny has been an absent father, but he gets along well with Cleo. They play Guitar Player and other games, and go swimming. Johnny is impressed by her ice-skating and dancing skills. There is a funny scene of Romulo singing "Teddy Bear" (the sequence is subtitled in the print viewed).

The memory of the pole dancing gets more embarrassing watching Cleo figure skating.

Johnny and Cleo visit Milan where Johnny receives an award in a Berlusconian tv show full of half-naked showgirls. In the press junket Johnny is asked only shallow questions. In the show proper Johnny's speech is interrupted by the showgirls.

The commodification of women grows into an image of what happens to culture – what happens to the soul.

Johnny is not a bad guy, and his "la dolce vita" can be compared with characters portrayed by Marcello Mastroianni characters in the early 1960s films of Fellini and Antonioni. Johnny realizes that his life is empty and that he is driving in circles.

Cleo emerges as a life force, the stronger character. A highlight is the breakfast sequence. Cleo has prepared Eggs Benedict. Cleo can convey a lot with her looks without raising the question about who is her father's lady-of-the-night who joins them for breakfast.

There is a reminder of the depth in Johnny in the scene where he plays a piano transcription of a Bach chaconne. Writing these remarks I listened to Itzhak Perlman's interpretation of the partita to which it belongs and found in Wikipedia a quote of Johannes Brahms' letter to Clara Schumann: "On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind." (Brahms wrote a piano transcription of the chaconne.)

Somewhere begins with Johnny driving in circles and it ends on a desert highway leading to the horizon. It's a film about a journey of self-discovery.  I look forward to seeing it again.

The digital intermediate look is not bad, although the visual quality does not reach the all-photochemical glory of Marie Antoinette.

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