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'Somewhere' Movie Tops Venice: Sofia Coppola Ex-Boyfriend Quentin Tarantino Headed Jury

Elle Fanning, Stephen Dorff, Somewhere
Somewhere movie with Elle Fanning and Stephen Dorff

Sofia Coppola's Somewhere movie, hardly a unanimous critical hit (see further below), was the unanimous Golden Lion winner at the 2010 Venice Film Festival.

Coppola's fellow Italian-American filmmaker – and former boyfriend – Quentin Tarantino headed the seven-person jury, which also included composer Danny Elfman and filmmakers Guillermo Arriaga and Arnaud Desplechin.

Partly inspired by Coppola's travels with her father, Francis Ford Coppola, Somewhere chronicles the empty existence of a (nearly) middle-aged Hollywood star (Stephen Dorff) into booze, drugs, and women. The actor begins to question his dissolute way of life after becoming reacquainted with his 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning).

In her Golden Lion acceptance speech, Coppola thanked her father “for teaching me.” Francis Ford Coppola has never won a competitive Golden Lion, but he was awarded a Career Golden Lion in 1992.

For her 2003 comedy-drama Lost in Translation, Coppola, now 39, became the first American woman to receive a Best Director Oscar nomination.

Previous female winners of Venice's Golden Lion include Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, 2001), Agnès Varda (Sans toit ni loi / Vagabond, 1985), and Margarethe von Trotta (Die Bleierne Zeit / Marianne and Juliane, 1981).

Coppola has described Somewhere as “a portrait of today's L.A.” Well, her L.A., perhaps; in other words, Bel Air or Holmby Hills. Los Angeles, after all, is a very, very big place where very, very few people are pampered, filthy rich movie stars.

Sofia Coppola, Golden Lion 2010 Venice Film Festival

“This film enchanted us from its first screening,” 2010 Venice Film Festival jury president Quentin Tarantino remarked at the closing ceremony on Saturday. “Yet, from that first enchanting screening, it grew and grew and grew in both our hearts, in our analysis, in our minds, and in our affections.”

Displaying a tenuous handle on tact and diplomacy, Tarantino added, “We kept coming back to it in discussions, even when talking about other films, because we found it kept illustrating what we were looking for in the winner of our Golden Lion.”

The “enchanting” film is, of course,Golden Lion winner Somewhere, an existential family drama directed by former Tarantino girlfriend Sofia Coppola that upon its Venice screening received mixed reviews.

For instance, at indieWIRE Shane Danielsen wrote that “Coppola so obviously sides with her protagonist, in his ennui and self-pity, that she never bothers to ask why he might be such the asshole that a series of anonymous text-messages suggests … a plot-point breezily dismissed by character and director alike.”

The Venice jury, which according to Tarantino selected Somewhere unanimously, had no such qualms. Obviously, neither did Tarantino.

As per Associated Press journalist Sheri Jennings, Tarantino “seemed to fight back tears” when he announced Coppola as the winner of this year's Golden Lion. The two then “warmly hugged.”

Earlier in the festival, the director of Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds had to field questions about his being the head of a jury that would vote on films made by close friends. In addition to Coppola, filmmaker Monte Hellman, whose Road to Nowhere was in competition and who won a Special Lion “for an Overall Work,” acted as an executive producer on Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. Addendum: Álex de la Iglesia, winner of the best director and best screenplay awards for The Last Circus is reportedly another Tarantino buddy.

Following the awards ceremony, Tarantino had to once again explain himself, asserting “that wasn't difficult at all. Being her friend didn't affect me or make me sway the jury in any way.

“Sure, I created guidelines but she won it fair and square and unanimously.

“The other members of the Jury don't know her at all. They just loved the film. We kept coming back to it, as one of us said, because 'it's a great fucking movie,' all right?"

Maybe.

But had Tarantino not been the head of the 2010 Venice Film Festival, could the Golden Lion have gone to another (better-received) film, say, Abdellatif Kechiche's Venus Noire / Black Venus, François Ozon's Potiche, or Pablo Larraín's Post Mortem?

The problem when such potential conflict of interests arises is that it not only tarnishes the worth of the winning films and talent, but also the credibility of the Venice Film Festival itself.

Surely festival organizers can find seven film people without close ties to the top talent involved in their 20 or 25 competing films.

Photo: Venice Film Festival

Sept. 12 update

The decision by Venice Film Festival organizers to enlist Quentin Tarantino as president of the 2010 jury and select (at least) three films made by friends of the Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds director was controversial from the get-go.

It has become more so following the Golden Lion given to Sofia Coppola's Somewhere, the choice of Álex de la Iglesia as best director and best screenwriter for The Last Circus, and the Special Lion “for an Overall Work” for Monte Hellman, whose Road to Nowhere was screened in competition.

Coppola dated Tarantino a few years ago, de la Iglesia is referred to as a “long-time Tarantino friend” in The Hollywood Reporter, while the veteran Hellman was an executive producer on Reservoir Dogs, the feature that launched Tarantino's film career.

Tarantino has insisted that Coppola's Somewhere won the Golden Lion unanimously – in fact, that every choice was unanimous – adding that Monte Hellman had taught him a lesson about favoritism when Reservoir Dogs was in competition at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival:

“I actually had a friend on the jury and [Hellman] told me that a friend on the jury is your worst enemy as they would be too embarrassed to give you a prize. I wasn't going to let anything like that affect me.”

Even so, questions have understandably arisen.

“The presidency of Quentin Tarantino at the 67th Mostra runs the risk of becoming the most blatant conflict of interest possible,” wrote Corriere della Sera chief film critic Paolo Mereghetti, “when you consider that Somewhere and Road to Nowhere, not in my view but according to the press in general, were seen as charming and interesting but nothing more.” (Via cinemagay.it.)

In his piece, Mereghetti also remarked on the “predictable tendentiousness” of this year's jury president – Tarantino had previously badmouthed Italian cinema; hence no Italian movies came out victorious – and on the danger of having a jury much too identified with their president, “a mistake Venice seems to make more often than other festivals.”

Additionally, in a post-ceremony article Mereghetti wrote that at a follow-up press conference Tarantino responded to catcalls by way of a “vulgar gesture,” adding that despite Somewhere's Golden Lion victory the public remained unconvinced of the film's qualities. Following a paid screening Saturday night, the family drama received catcalls and “some boos.”

'Somewhere' tepid reviews

Sofia Coppola's psychological family drama Somewhere hasn't been greeted by what one would call stellar reviews. Screened at the 2010 Venice Film Festival a couple of days ago, Somewhere chronicles the relationship between a pampered movie star (Stephen Dorff) and his pre-teen daughter (Elle Fanning).

Written and directed by Coppola, among whose previous directorial credits are Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette, Somewhere also features Benicio Del Toro, Michelle Monaghan, Laura Ramsey, and Robert Schwartzman.

Weirdly, the movie looks like an acidly satirical comedy about LA celebrity but with all the acidly satirical comedy removed, so that all that is left is a skeleton outline, a series of scenes and locations - hotel rooms, lobbies, swimming pools, luxury automobile interiors - in which essentially gentle, forgiving dialogue takes place.

Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian.

 

After her foray into historical costumers with “Marie Antoinette,” Sofia Coppola makes a happy return to “Lost in Translation” territory in the cutback charmer “Somewhere,” which illuminates the emptiness of a movie star's life in Los Angeles through close observation and gentle irony.

Deborah Young in The Hollywood Reporter.

 

A cloying sense of déjà vu radiates from 'Somewhere', Sofia Coppola's long-gestating follow-up to her divisive postmodern historical biopic 'Marie Antoinette' (2006). That's not to dismiss the movie as a failure, it just forces viewers to make a judgement call as to whether her ongoing concerns regarding the alienation suffered by the pampered, beautiful elite (a world she obviously knows very well) coalesce into a satisfying body of work or whether she's simply making variations on the same movie. So lets chalk this one up as existing in that peculiar space between 'La Dolce Vita' and 'Entourage'.

David Jenkins in Time Out London.

 

On the evidence provided in “Somewhere,” the room to book at the Chateau Marmont is 59, which comes with blond pole-dancing twins. Then again, maybe you have to be a rich, good-looking movie star to merit such treatment, and the focus on undeserved privilege is one of the few points of real interest in Sofia Coppola's first feature since “Marie Antoinette.” This junior league Antonioniesque study of dislocation and aimlessness is attractive but parched in the manner of its dominant Los Angeles setting, and it's a toss-up as to whether the film is about vacuity or is simply vacuous itself.

Todd McCarthy at indieWIRE.

Photo: Focus Features


         
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26 Comments to 'Somewhere' Movie Tops Venice: Sofia Coppola Ex-Boyfriend Quentin Tarantino Headed Jury

  1. bf

    Must be nice to have an ex-boyfriend give you an award. That proves the relationship wasn't all for naught. It's not how hard you work, but who you know that matters……..

  2. Erin

    The first two comments are ridiculous. I doubt the writer is hating on female directors. In fact he was only quoting what other reviewers had said. I hadn't heard anything about this film, but rented it because in the past I have loved Ms. Coppola's films ( virgin suicides, lost in translation). And I'm sorry, but it's total crap. I'm all for bizarre, off the wall films. This film is neither bizarre or off the wall. There's no plot. There's no imagery. There's no beauty, no humor. It is just plain boring. No, I dont want to stare at Stephen Dorff's white plastered covered head for twenty minutes. I've currently watched the first 45 minutes and I'm about to turn it off!

  3. Selinda

    I believe Sophia Coppola is riding on her name longer than Johnny Marco has been riding in his sports car - and according to the movie, that's a long time. I'm not saying she isn't accomplished in her own right, but her attributes and movies are so overrated, I can't help but wonder if her famous surname doesn't carry substantial weight among the elite circle of film makers, critics, and judges.

    As in Lost in Translation, the focus on this film is a bored actor, only this one is younger and his bonding companion is his 11-year old daughter rather than a young, equally bored wife of a cameraman. Alienation and isolation are engaging themes, but the problem is that in Somewhere, the audience can grow just as bored as the main character. You get the impression that Johnny should be going somewhere, but you don't know where. In the end, one can hope he is walking toward something rather than away from something, but by this point, the film took far too long to get nowhere.

  4. tracey

    OMG When a rep from the movie theatre is standing at the exit counting the number of people who leave early is not a good sign. Really- have we come to this as a society where starring at a car going around a track, girls dancing on a pole and unimaginative sex scenes for longer than way necessary is supposed to entertain we sooooo need to evaluate what makes a movie a classic.

  5. David Mueller

    This movie was endless full of empty space and vacant. I wish I had not spent the time or money. Just awful and boring waiting endlessly for something, anything to happen

  6. Valerie Evans

    Thank goodness - I thought I must have missed something, having seen the 4 star reviews attached to this film. Basically, this is the most boring film I have ever watched, and so-o-o predictable. My companion agreed we should have left after seeing the sports car go round and round the track at the start, because that set the tone of the rest of the film - I kept closing my eyes for minutes and when I opened them again, nothing had happened - still the same scene, same staring face. And the pole dancers went on and on and then they came back and did it again. OMG.
    We left when he was crying down the phone and assume his daughter saved him. Very original - not. And I loved Lost in Translation.

  7. DavidC

    Like Frances I too have just watched a screener for this film and I also felt I had been robbed of 2 hrs! The film left me speechless…one hour and sixteen minutes into the film Fanning cries and I thought well here comes some drama….wrong. Nothing happens in this film, quite unbelievable, how does she get finance for such an empty pointless film? Her family name perhaps?

  8. Paul Harrod

    While it may be true that Michelangelo Antonioni garnered the laurels of cinema genius by making films composed of long shots of nothing in particular happening to characters wandering through a haze of bourgeois ennui, the fact is his films were BEAUTIFUL to look at. Nearly every shot in L'aaventura or Red Desert takes your breath away, and feels loaded with layers of meaning that the viewer ponders for weeks. What angers me more than the vacuousness of “Somewhere” is that it is so thoroughly ugly to look at. Every shot seems to leave a bit of a stench, whether its that it doesn't match up with any other shot in the scene, is clouded by a low-contrast haze or is simply the most banal composition imaginable. Perhaps Ms. Coppola's intention was to languish in that banality, but honestly, isn't there enough of that in the world?

  9. Frances

    Wow. Just saw a screener. Can I please have the last two hours back. Somewhere is a self-indulgent, pointless, vapid, listless, reduntant, and just plain awful film.

    Appreciated Lost in Translation. Sofia took ten steps back with this one.

  10. deborah wallace

    doesn't she know the word “cut?” must every scene be, or feel like, ten minutes long? does she have to finish an entire song in every scene? with or without twin strippers?
    i for one, hated lost in translation — felt i was being manipulated, and without her father's influence, no one would have ever seen it (much less get the film shot)
    this film was tedious, endless, pointless, and, simple just “ended” with no resolution, thank god i did not have to pay to see it, or i would have written a less-than-stellar review.
    DW

  11. Eric

    I saw the film the other day at a screening and I have to say that the film is shockingly horrible. Not only is it vapid beyond belief, it's also one of the more boring films I've ever seen. Nothing happens — I mean NOTHING happens. Sofia Coppola seems obsessed with saying how shallow being a rich star is and yet, at the same time, seems endlessly enraptured by it. I was sort of blown away by how utterly self indulgent the film was.

  12. Pete Shaw

    Hey guys - just wanted to join in on the intelligent debate. I saw the film last night and thought it was worth mentioning that aside from the thoughts of women hating men, gushing reviews and agenda filled buddies…

    … This film is absolutely terrible.

    I didn't collate any reviews or come to it with any agenda - I just watched it. Craziness.

  13. Minny

    Wow must be nice to have your ex boyfriend give you an award. lol.

  14. Tashi Roberts

    DUH! of course it was QT's powertrip giving awards to friends, Hollywood is so “inbred”- they only reproduce amongst their own species..so to speak

  15. jenno

    Tarantino is such a freak. That “momento” moment was hilarious.

  16. Stefan

    For what it's worth - the film didn't deserve all this credit.. Technically brilliant but lacking in emotional response … A good film, but definitely not great

  17. the truth

    oh please why do you think she went to venice? she's italian and that country is very patriotic and xenophobic. nepotism is the national tradition. la familia.

  18. altfilmguide

    Sofia Coppola wasn't the first woman to win the Golden Lion. That honor belongs to Margarethe von Trotta, whose win took place nearly 30 years ago. Agnès Varda and Mira Nair have since followed suit. It's hardly as if Coppola is a “pioneer.”

  19. veganese

    It really bothers me that Sofia gets so much credit and awards for being an INDEPENDENT filmmaker. Too much of her family is involved in her movies. Her brother is her AD and Producer. Her father is her Producer and probably co-Screenwriter. Meanwhile REAL filmmakers have to start from nothing with just their OWN ideas and rely on themselves to make a film. QT obviously helped her and her film get more prestige and good PR.

  20. GW

    Why is it that every time a female director wins an award writers claim an old boyfriend or husband helped? This same thing happened with Bigelow and Cameron. Why can't the male dominated media accept the fact that women can be great directors. These women are paving the way for future female directors, producers, and writers. Instead of being a part of history, a lot of the vapid media is holding them back.

    Congratulations to Sophia. She is a great film maker and she deserved this honor.

  21. J

    great. considering her father and brother help her make her films, why don't they just give the award to the whole family?

  22. francis Coppola

    Arthur Leander, In your desire to disparage the award, don't you realize that if two people had formerly dated for a brief time, there's as much a chance it would prejudice against an award as aid it, In truth my esteem of the character of Quentin went up a few notches, In that he didn't hold a relationship that broke up against the film.

    If the words of the great Irish poet, Brendan Behan: “F— the begrudgers!)

  23. KathrynUni

    @ALeander

    The reviews are not less than stellar. You seem to go out of your way to pick on Sophia. Maybe you are one of those men that are jealous of female directors.

    Oh and look, Sophia Coppola won The Golden Lion for best film at Venice. That is the best kind of revenge.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE68A17D20100911?type=entertainmentNews

  24. ALeander

    James, Whether you find them “ridiculous” or not, overall reviews for “Somewhere” have been “less than stellar.” There's nothing misleading about that statement. That doesn't mean “Somewhere” doesn't have its fans. *Everything* has its fans. Ask Adam Sandler.

    Also, “less than stellar” doesn't mean the movie was trashed. Else, I'd have said so. By “less than stellar” I meant to say less than widespread, across-the-board, enthusiastic acclaim. (That includes non-English-language articles.)

    Bill, I'm neither your “buddy” nor do I have “an agenda.” Perhaps you do, but that's not my issue. Whether Sofia Coppola makes a successful movie or a total flop will not stop the world from turning or the polar ice caps from melting away. In other words: I don't care if Coppola's movies are marvelous or miserable.

    The reviews quoted in this article are from well-known and well-respected reviewers. That's why they're here.

    Anne Thompson's remarks weren't included because I felt her article was more a commentary on Coppola and a lengthy description of the film than an actual, in-depth review. Instead, I opted to use a snippet from Todd McCarthy's piece because he was much more to the point.

  25. bill

    You have much of an agenda, buddy? Somehow you left out Anne Thompson's gushing report also in IndieWire, The glowing review from Variety and the over the top review from In Contention.

    It's obvious that Sofia brings out the jealousy in folks but try not to be so obvious. It's true. Sofia has the life most people would love to have, but she's still a great filmmaker. And you write an jaundiced blog on-line.

  26. James

    This is such a ridiculous article. You only sample of 4 reviews, 3 of which are negative, and then say that it was met with “less-than-stellar reviews”? How about you seek out ALL of the published reviews. Like, say, the extremely positive one from VARIETY or the raves from INC CONTENTION and EMPIRE. Even in a small way, you could be classified as a reporter and even if you weren't, you should still aspire to write fairly and truthfully. This article is misleading.