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January 10, 2011

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Ali Arikan

I also had a sense of unease in the relationship between Cleo and Johnny's friend/brother(?) such as the Martina Navratilova comment. This might be my reading too much into it, mind.

Matt Zoller Seitz

That skating scene is about a lot of things. It's about the dad sorting through his tangled feelings about the fact that his daughter is becoming a beautiful young woman (which is not easy for any father to process, but especially difficult for a movie star who's always shown with women younger than himself). But it's also about a terminally distracted man looking up from his iPhone and actually clearing his head for a few minutes and concentrating on the amazing things his child is doing out there on the ice, and appreciating that she takes skating as seriously as he takes his own craft. (That's what their conversation is about in the next scene as they drive away -- his acknowledgment that she's a good skater; one artist complimenting another.) And it's about concentration generally -- how people don't give anything their undivided attention anymore, and how when they DO, it's an act of will, and a tremendous compliment to the person or thing being concentrated upon.

All this is expressed in the interaction of shots, cuts and music, and in Stephen Dorff's face, an ever-shifting map of contradictory feelings. It's a brilliant scene.

Whoever dismissed it as child pornography is an idiot.

Davidehrlich

note how johnny is confronted with a blank nude woman in the hallway outside his room as soon as he returns from helicoptering cleo to camp. it's the first thing he sees upon returning to the Chateau. the way the camera regards her sitting there in her naked apathy... it marks a serious sea change for our hero, as the nudity has devolved from theatrical to grotesquely carnivalesque.

nice piece, Glenn. think you've hit upon something by equating cleo & the women instead of isolating them with Johnny as the fence between. here's what i had to say bout the flick, which methinks is very much in line with where you're going with this. happy to see you fighting the good fight with this one.

http://blog.moviefone.com/2010/12/21/somewhere-review/

Ali Arikan

There's a bit midway through the film as Johnny and Cleo are walking away from the camera and the latter is telling her father about "Twilight." A few people at the screening I attended laughed at the scene, glibly dismissing it. But Johnny's reaction is the key: he genuinely is interested in "Twilight's" plot, and gives Cleo his complete attention. This, I believe, is related to Matt's observation of the ice-skating scene: another instance of genuine concentration, true interest, and paternal love. It is a sublime moment.

Mark Zecca

Glenn by the way ,long time no see. Hope you are well.
This film annoyed me to no end. I thought it was a masturbation piece.... self indulgent on the directors behalf. I didn't feel for the lead character. His character did nothing to enrich his mind. I felt for the young girl and her sense of abandonment. I viewed this in Hollywood at a real film buff's theater and can see the audience was left empty. We want to feel something but we were left thirsty. Would love to see you. I'm in LA.

Graig

I saw SOMEWHERE over the weekend and was blinking back tears by the end. I was surprised to have been moved as much as I was. I was watching each scene, recognizing that "nothing" was "happening" and waiting for it to feel mannered or artsy or self-conscious -- and it never happened. It's fully sustained work of individual moments that never feel falso. The film is so indirect and understated, never underlines anything, so true to itself and never going for the easy emotional payoff. I loved it. Easily Coppola's best.

Glenn Kenny

Wow, people's reactions to this film really ARE split. And it seems, positive or negative, that people respond in a very personal way. That's interesting. Nice to hear from you, Mark, and I'm sorry you didn't like the picture. Look forward to catching up; it's been a LONG time!

Asher

I have to say that, the way you describe it, it all sounds rather misogynistic, even though you end up reading the film as saying, perhaps, "what's wrong with flashing movie stars from one's balcony?" I don't really think that Coppola's that smart; it may sound ridiculously reductive, but I think for Coppola there's a really straight, simple thru-line between consumerism, advertising, the film industry, unfaithful womanizing men, and slutty women, on the one hand, and alienation on the other. All of these, for Coppola, are causes and/or symptoms of "our" alienated condition, from which one can only escape through vaguely mysticized acts of suicide, similarly mysticized connections with fellow existentially-lonelyhearts or, in her latest, kids, who are automatically pure of heart because, duh, they're kids. (And crucially, prepubescent kids.) Next it'll be noble savages. To the extent that Somewhere breaks down these dichotomies and suggests that Cleo isn't so different from all the other women in the movie, I think it's only by accident; Coppola just doesn't get that her own ideology has something in common with the stuff she's castigating. That is, for her, domesticity and home-cooked meals are great; anonymous sex and anonymous room-service breakfasts, not so much - but in this reactionary flight to the authenticity of the home-cooked meal, she's forgotten that cooking's just as much of a performance as balcony-flashing, and one often undertaken for the same purposes.

Nick

I believe the woman at the end is C.C. Sheffield. She's credited as "Woman Getting Haircut." http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2082779/ She is apparently a pop star or something, as well. I remember the first images of the film online were ones she had up while filming her scene (with a shirt on).

One interesting thing regarding the myriad shots of breasts in the film is that many of them have photographic inspiration. Some of which Coppola collected at one of Focus' promo sites: http://www.scsomewhere.com/inspiration/

The girl with the sailor hat is based on a paparazzi shot of Sienna Miller, the aforementioned girl getting hair cut is based on a Helmut Newton photo, etc.

It's also worth pointing out that Johnny isn't just offered female flesh, the male masseur also drops his clothing within moments of meeting Johnny.

I do think the film has quite a bit more to say than people are giving it credit for, and I'm glad you're helping to keep the discussion going.

Brandon

The ice-skating scene is marvelous for all the reasons described above by Mr. Seitz. I also especially liked the reaction shot of Dorff to the 'woman getting a haircut' that he sees near the end, because his decision to leave was there in his face. It is a great piece of acting, and from this I ambivalently wonder how much of the praise that Coppola gets for this film is actually her own doing. I do not mean for that to be a swipe at her, because I've enjoyed her other films, but I just don't personally see the cohesion here that people are giving it credit for.

Without being specific, I am still unclear about how I feel about the ending (which is probably what is keeping from me from making a clear decision about the film). It seems to be an ending that is supposed to be felt and not thought out. I would be interested in knowing what people experienced here, because I am still confused.
Many see Marco as somehow embodying his paternal epiphany here, though what he is actually going to attempt is left completely unclear (to me). He is clearly going somewhere literally, but are we supposed to project that figurative "somewhere" based on our own uninformed reaction to the character? I never felt I got enough from the film to make that decision and I'm not sure if the actors were really given enough to make this possible.

Nictate

Thoughtful observations and pleasing prose. It's wonderful to savor such reflections on a film like Somewhere, which, as you pointed out, could feel deceptively gossamer at first glance.

The macho movie star's merry-go-round of easily poachable poontang is definitely not exaggerated in Somewhere, but I really appreciate your take on it as "...an interesting insistence on the issue of exposure."

As someone who dated a (non-movie star) divorced dad with a teen, I can attest to that Oedipal drive in a young girl who is longing to find a stronger connection with a man she sees half the time or less -- time that is even more diluted by whoever he's dating. She's threatened, she's competitive, she's possessive. She's confused by her father's sexuality being unfiltered by the bounds of matrimony to her own mom and see his love interests as her opponents, which means her womanliness becomes an inappropriate weapon in her arsenal no matter how naively her feminine wiles present themselves to pops (chive cutting!).

In the scene where Cleo and Johnny stand by their broken-down car, I was jolted with the realization that if she wasn't his daughter, within a handful of years she'd be the right age (and have the right gamine attractiveness) to date a fading movie star.

You are so right that Sofia is not soft-pedaling Cleo's cusp-ness. She's observing it with the kind eye of a young mom who hasn't forgotten how confusing that confluence of burgeoning womanhood-effervescence and vortex-of-vulnerability felt.

Bittersweet and beautiful, through and through.

Peteramartin

I was developing an intense hatred for the film until I started looking at it through Cleo's eyes, as though it were a fantasy that she was spinning out in her own head, as in: 'My Dad really needs me, look how pathetic and empty his life is without me.'

She might imagine, based on what she's seen with her own eyes, that every woman exposes her breasts to catch his attention and offer herself to him. She loves the perks that wealth brings but is dismayed by the downside of celebrity.

In any event, lovely film, and appreciate your suggestion that it's much more than a pretty trifle.

Victor Morton

I hope I'm not the person on Twitter to whom Glenn is referring. But here's what I wrote at the time, with a couple of [] for clarity:

"Curious if I was only person to get undercurrent [in the Dorff-Fanning relationship] of a kind of non-sexual incest -- the relationship more resembles boyfriend-girlfriend than father-daughter (from BOTH ends). I hesitate to use "incest" b/c SOMEWHERE doesn't imply anything in characters' consciousness or turn the subtext to sex sted of [what it is, which is] maturity and [how Fanning and Dorff relate in the ways] that lovers relate when they're not in bed."

To say some more here. The two best scenes in the picture, which is growing on me the more I read about it (though Dorff and the last scene mean I doubt I'll ever think it great), are the two Glenn and Matt underline -- the eggs benedict and the skating. And both scenes have the bald content (morning-after breakfast and first-view seduction) of romance-movie scenes, but with not only no overt sex but also with, on Coppola's part, none of the leering or "gaze" or subtextual "winks."

Frankly it should have occurred to me that night, rather than now, to close the circle -- that it's about a father seeing his daughter on the cusp of becoming a woman, i.e., as a sexual-being, if not for him. Which is probably complicated enough under the best of circumstances, but given Dorff's lifestyle ...

I saw an author, in a FIRING LINE interview, say that the most embarrassing conversation he ever had in his life was when he was asking his prospective father-in-law for permission to marry his daughter. "As a man, he knew what was on my mind. Any man would. But only in his case, was it with respect to 'MY' daughter."

Glenn Kenny

@ Victor: No, that was not what I was referring to, for the record. I wish I could track down the tweet, as it was rather ridiculous, but for the same reason, I'm glad I have not been able to. And honestly, I don't think your observations are necessarily far off the mark, at all. This is hardly a bland film.

Victor Morton

Does anyone else think Coppola's sex may be related to her portrayal of this relationship, which there aren't very many of in recent movies? Or to put it another way, can being a woman let Coppola hit notes that a male director might have a harder time hitting or (in the worst case) might be unaware of.

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