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1 Sep

Sofia Coppola: what will we learn from her latest

Sofia Coppola: what will we learn from her latest

Spanning the length of her profession thus far, Sofia Coppola: Archive offers a rare insight into the filmmaker’s creative practice – here, we share a few of the essential takeaways

The name Sofia Coppola has turn into synonymous with a certain aesthetic: think soft pastels, waifish white blondes in prairie dresses, and Hollywood cool undercut with an unbothered elegance. From her 1999 debut The Virgin Suicides through to the forthcoming Priscilla, she’s arguably one in all the few nepo babies that has greater than earned their very own seat on the table, creating a definite body of labor that reflects our global obsession with youth, beauty, celebrity and power. Considering the visual strength of Coppola’s filmography – and her interest in photography that developed under the guidance of artist Paul Jasmin – it’s about time that she released a book affording fans a glimpse into her gilded world. “I hope you enjoy this scrapbook of my film work and find it helpful to see how these projects come together,” she says in a prologue note. For those of us who grew up reblogging artful photos of Kirsten Dunst, it’s an absolute dream. 

Sofia Coppola: Archive (MACK) is a dense tome, spanning the length of her profession thus far. The eight chapters are marked by baby pink dividers, delineating each of her feature movies. That is the primary time that Coppola has provided such an intensive have a look at her creative process; the result’s a beautifully chosen arrangement of images that provide an insight into how her movies come together, and the way her style has developed over the course of virtually a quarter-century in filmmaking.

An interview between Coppola and her friend Lynn Hirschberg (veteran journalist and Editor-at-Large for W Magazine) precedes the majority of the content, which offers some interesting details about her transition from unfocused Advantageous Art student into the visually-oriented artist beloved today. She reflects on the experience of seeing Kirsten Dunst in Interview with the Vampire before she would go on to work along with her on The Virgin Suicides, and the actual fact she has included a Phoenix song (the band fronted by her husband Thomas Mars) in each of her movies since Marie Antoinette “for good luck”. It’s a quite general but sweet have a look at the self-proclaimed shy artist; there’s no self-aggrandising here. Coppola has at all times seemed completely satisfied to let her images do the talking. 

Those accustomed to Coppola’s oeuvre will likely recognise a few of the images that appear in Archive, but there’s something deeply pleasurable about seeing an artist’s work through their very own eyes. Within the chapter on The Virgin Suicides, Coppola features a letter that she received from the book’s writer, Jeffrey Eugenides, where he apologises for a previous correspondence, and expresses his surprise at how quickly the project has come together. This stands out from the more familiar (though admittedly still gorgeous) images of the forged on-set – it’s a rare insight into the production process behind Coppola’s debut film, and the push-and-pull that may exist when an writer’s work is customized for the screen (Eugenides has previously reflected on what he would have done in another way to Coppola). 

Other tidbits from the opening chapter include a draft copy of the doodled title card that has turn into iconic, and scanned pages from Coppola’s shooting script, complete with post-its and notes about elm trees for the set. Then there are some excellent on-set photos – a highlight is a lacy pink bra hanging from a crucifix – a few of that are accompanied by Coppola’s captions. Referring to a photograph of her behind the camera, wearing a brief pink dress and slides, she says: “I used to be determined to still be feminine while directing. […] I used to be attempting to rebel against the norm of set fashion.” Considering the cult that has developed around filmmaker style, it’s no surprise that Coppola was ahead of the curve.

“Suburbia at all times seemed fun and exotic to me,” Coppola says in one other caption, this time speaking a few reference image from Bill Owens’ Suburbia photo series. Her fascination with this quintessential American phenomenon is totally reflected within the stifling melancholy of The Virgin Suicides, but in addition in The Bling Ring, where suburbia is a jail for affluent teenagers who would quite be partying like Paris Hilton. That is where the book takes a turn for the garishly millennial, because it captures the spirit of the 2008-09 break-ins – complete with rhinestone clapperboard. It’s interesting to notice how closely Coppola’s mood boards and inspiration photos match the finished result; magazine cut-outs of Angelina Jolie and pap shots of Robert Pattinson point to the celeb-obsessed culture that each fascinated and repulsed Coppola, leading her to make her unfairly maligned film about disaffected adolescents who had all of it and still wanted more.

The small print that Coppola includes beyond photos prove revealing too; in her section about father-daughter caper On the Rocks, she shows a note her own father sent her, together with a cutting of a positive review of the film from the San Francisco Examiner. It’s no secret that the Coppolas are a tight-knit bunch – there are many photos of her parents and brother on set throughout the book – but there’s something particularly sweet in regards to the idea of Sofia Coppola being sent a pleasant review of her film by her dad. 

One other interesting detail: a listing of questions Coppola drafted when working with Priscilla Presley to adapt her memoir, Elvis & Me, into Priscilla. She wonders who Priscilla’s friends were, and in the event that they ever had time alone together during his military posting in Germany. Subsequent pages display dozens of on-set polaroids and interior details from the recreation of Graceland that was created on a Toronto soundstage. 

Each chapter of Archive looks like you’re getting into a unique world. Although the text throughout the book is sparing, Coppola’s inclusion of behind-the-scenes photography mixed with mood boards, reference photos, fabric swatches and shot lists show the eye to detail that goes into creating each of her movies. 

It’s this abundance of thought and care that has made Sofia Coppola such a permanent and interesting filmmaker. Good taste alone isn’t enough to make a movie; one must also possess the diligence and curiosity to see it through. For lovers of her movies, or aspiring artists on the lookout for inspiration in terms of the curation and collation of references and knowledge, Archive is a peek backstage into the fashionable world of Coppola – and the sheer amount of effort it takes to look so perfectly effortless.

Sofia Coppola: Archive is out now on MACK books

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