Metteur en scene: Sofia Coppola

Coppola is a metteur-en-scene in the trust French sense of the word: each shot is a carefully crafted vignette, a still, a photograph. It is the kind of filmmaking I enjoy the most: the feeling and the intention of the scene are felt first, articulated later. The feeling (and by this, I mean aesthetic, and not sentiment) is tantamount. It is one clever way of articulating characters without characterization. In Coppola’s latest, Somewhere, Johnny drives around in circles, as in a car track, for several uninterrupted minutes. We do not see him go around the track entirely nor do we have a sense of the speed; the camera is slightly off to one side, so we catch only a mere curve of the whole thing. This car, this track is somewhere you don’t know; all you see is a vast dry and sunny desert behind him. It is a perfectly set-up scene; not only is it a visual statement for Donny’s life – we find later that he’s literally going nowhere in circles – but it also sets a stately and patient pace for the film and for the timeless, placeless quality of his life. Coppola uses the spaces between people and objects to finely draw the characters and loosely contain the narrative – whether it’s the vast emptiness of an ice rink, the blank quality of a race track, or the order of a hotel room. Nothing in particular is of significance, yet we sense the weight of those spaces.

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