American writer and filmmaker Sofia Coppola has received her fair share of criticism throughout her career. Still, it would be hard to deny the fact that she has produced a few gems like The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation. While some critics have dismissed her achievements as a symptom of her privilege, Coppola has forged ahead with her own unique style and personal artistic vision.
Coppola has always acknowledged that she owes a lot to her predecessors, including the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Jean-Luc Godard and Peter Bogdanovich, among others. However, her primary source of inspiration has to be her experiences on the set of her father Francis Ford Coppola’s cinematic projects, which introduced her to the endless magic of the world of cinema.
She insists that she has carved out her place in cinematic history, emerging from the extensive reach of her father’s shadow. “I’m proud to be his daughter,” Sofia told The Guardian. “I learned to have balls from him, and integrity. But I have a body of work now, and it has its own identity. He’s a great master, but I’m happy to carve out my own way of working.”
When asked to name some of her favourite films of all time, people expected her to include some of her father’s masterpieces like The Godfather or Apocalypse Now. Contrary to everyone’s expectations, Coppola named the criminally neglected 1983 Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece Rumble Fish, an adaptation of an S.E. Hinton novel.
In an interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Coppola said: “I love that it’s an art film about teenagers. I just love the way that it’s shot — I love those old lenses, those Zeiss lenses; they have a softer feel. [Coppola and her DP, Harris Savvides, used the lenses from Rumble Fish to shoot Somewhere.] Roman [Coppola, her brother] and I are just sentimental about film.”
Based on Hinton’s 1975 novel, Rumble Fish stars Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke as a pair of young brothers who have vastly differing dreams and aspirations. Influenced by the avant-garde experiments of the French New Wave and German Expressionism, Coppola toys with cinematic conventions and ends up creating one of his finest works.
“The film has a real feeling of heat. I can’t remember what the actual weather was like, but we made a conscious effort to make it appear hot, spraying the actors and wetting their underarms,” Francis Ford Coppola said. “I decided to shoot in black and white because I wanted to make an art film for young people, and black and white gives a quality of poetic realism.
Adding, “I didn’t just leave it to the script to tell the story – I also used camera angles, lighting and soundtrack to stimulate a young audience into loving the form as much as I did. I was disappointed when they didn’t rush to see it. But it’s pleasing its appeal has endured. It was the film I really wanted to make.”