It seems that you can’t make your way through Hollywood without tripping over a Coppola. Though their names are generally disguised , and it is often hard to see the resemblance. The more Francis Ford relatives are spawned, the more careers seem to be thriving. Nicholas Cage boldly dropped his prestigious last name in anticipation of an independent persona, Jason Schwartzman is a Coppola cousin, also related to actress Talia Shire, and actor/director Roman.
But we mustn’t forget the prodigal daughter Sofia. You must forgive my bias opinion when discussing the topic of this Oscar winning writer/director. Visually, I find her films stunning, yet there is a drawback to creating a series of pretty pictures; when they begin to move they just don’t make sense.
Of course, deriving from one of the greatest filmmakers in recent history provides every technical advantage you could imagine, as well as more immediate funding for films that would otherwise be tossed aside. With such a shortage of truly gifted female directors, I find her hipster acclaimed montages scored by post punk and emo ballads to be sort of pointless all together.
Yes, my distaste for Lost In Translation has stirred quite a few vicious arguments among self proclaimed film buffs. But in all honesty, watching Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray discuss a shirt for twenty five minutes in a series of long drawn out shots and very little dialogue made me, by the end of the movie, consider the outcome of the Virgin Suicides as a viable option.
One fearless reviewer of Marie Antoinette said perceptively that it was “an easy-listening style of film making, where the basic visual notes are hit but complexities, nuances and deeper meanings remain ignored.” I set out to love her work, but by the end of the first half hour I find myself searching for things to throw at the screen just so that something will actually happen.
The true tragedy of this film stems far beyond the hollow plotline and countless historical inaccuracies. In the film that cost a ridiculous 40 million dollars to make, you can see the boom mic in a total of seven different times and even the reflection of a crew member in a mirror dressed in modern attire. Putting aside the fact that the contemporary music was interesting conceptually but had no place in the film, or that a pair of Chuck Taylor All Stars were thrown into Antoinette’s shoe closet, it has become more than apparent that Coppola identifies with her main character’s struggle. Youth and privilege spawns ignorance. The moral of the story should have been that if you are not in touch with the struggle of others or the reality of a decaying society no amount of materialism or superficial distraction can save you from the inevitable outcome. Instead, we are supposed to sympathize with a spoiled teenager because she just didn’t know any better. In the most anti-feminist film about feminism I have seen since the remake of The Stepford Wives, this movie fails on every level and pulled in a disappointing eight million dollars to the box office.
The good news for female directors is that there is light beyond Tamra Davis. Take Rebecca Miller, daughter of world-renowned playwright Arthur Miller and photographer Inge Morath. Morath, originally a painter and sculpture at Yale, developed a love for theater and film, taking a unique approach to directing. With 2002’s Personal Velocity, Miller shot on a Sony DV camera. Thanks to cinematographer Ellen Kuras, this low budget film artistically developed a fly on wall quality unachievable on 35mm. With a small crew and little equipment Miller proves that substance and wit prevail over big budget extravagance and fleeing character development. Her intricate character study was an excellent follow up to 1995’s coming of age story Angela. As a director, her latest project was 2005’s The Ballad Of Jack and Rose staring husband Daniel Day Lewis, critically acclaimed with a short theatrical shelf life it is currently airing on IFC. Miller’s most recent project will be adapting her father’s play “The Man Who Had All The Luck” .
Also immersing herself in the world of independent film is Asia Argento, daughter of famous Italian horror director Dario Argento and actress Daria Nicolodi. Asia has not only developed her own visual style as a filmmaker but as a painter, sketch artist, photographer and novelist. Also a DJ and musician, Argento made a name for herself in Europe as a child appearing in complex and mature roles directed by her father. Quoted as saying, “Sometimes I think my father gave me life because he needed a lead actress for his films.” Making a crossover into American movies seemed natural for the Italian born trilingual actress, appearing in the high budget action flick XXX and The Keeper. In 2000’s Scarlet Diva Argento transformed the absurdity of her life as an Italian film star into a semi-autobiographical journey through sex, drugs, and the pursuit of artistic integrity. Never afraid to bear herself, body and soul, Diva received bad to mediocre reviews at best; calling Argento narcissistic and self-indulgent. Although narcissism seems to work well for Quentin Tarantino, it makes you wonder if there might be some kind of double standard. Having directed and starred in 2005’s The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, it is obvious that Argento has grown into a more visual and cohesive artist.
Argento has also just finished a video diary of sorts for Showstudio.com. The ten day documentary included three installments for every twenty four hours. Below the clips, users had the option of commenting and asking questions that she would later respond to. By the end of “Don’t Bother to Knock” you realize this project is not a diary at all, but in actuality the first interactive film experiment. Also, she is appearing in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. Her next project is Mother Of Tears directed by her father Dario Argento, which will be the third in a trilogy including Susperia and Inferno.
It seems that women filmmakers born into families of respected artists must struggle to find their own individual voice and brave a constant comparison. With a shortage of female filmmakers in the general talent pool steering away from formula romantic comedies, we can not overlook what is emerging and be grateful for what we have. While looking forward to the future, we also cannot help but see aspects of history in the work of these notable daughters of film and wonder where they could possibly be going next and what other women directors have waiting for us in the horizon.