Wednesday, October 15, 2003

What I'm listening to

The release of Lost in Translation not only made me want to see it and want to write about it, but it also made me think about Sofia Coppola's previous film, The Virgin Suicides. In a way it is a better and less realistic (and certainly less cynical) American Beauty, about suburbia, and why it may be stultifying for some people, and at the same time is also about the fragility and preciousness of love in a way the other film doesn't manage to be. There is something wonderful about the mood of the film, and something I figured out a long time ago is that there is nothing more crucial to establishing mood in a movie than getting the music right. The Virgin Suicides has a famously good soundtrack by Air.

Although I had only seen the movie once, about three years ago, the mood somehow stuck in my mind, and if I tried hard, I could almost hear the music in my head. So, I went and bought the CD of the score. And this was good. The music is a mixture of electonic and acoustic instruments. (I'm not sure if the percussion and guitars are real. They may be electronic instead. The wind instruments and the piano appear to be real). It's one of those soundtrack CDs where a couple of the tracks have dialogue (or at least voiceovers) from the movie spoken over them, but somehow this works.

It didn't matter in the end how old they had been
or that they were girls
but only they we had loved them
and they hadn't heard us calling,
still do not hear us calling them out of those rooms
where they went to be alone for all time
and where we will never find the pieces
to put them back together.

For a movie that cost $4 million dollars to make, Lost in Translation is doing wonderful business, having grossed over $18 million in the US, and still being in fairly limited release. The film is going to get Academy Award nominations - almost certainly for best actor for Bill Murray, maybe in one of the actress categories for Scarlett Johannson, almost certainly for Sofia Coppola for Best Original Screenplay, maybe for Sofia Coppola for Best Director, conceivably for Best Picture, but that depends what else comes out between now and December 31. However, this is a film that may be hurt by the ban on screener DVDs and VHS tapes. Hopefully that can be reversed. These nominations are going to mean that in the most optimistic case it could remain around its current level of business (five million or so a week) until about the end of February. It is going to gross at least $50m in the US, and possibly a good deal more. On a $4m budget this is a huge hit.

In any event, Sofia Coppola now finds herself in an enviable position. Despite the good reviews and moderate business of The Virgin Suicides, her position after that film wasn't strong enough to get her final cut over her next film if she made it with Hollywood money. However, she raised the budget by preselling foreign rights (particularly in Japan, where The Virgin Suicides was a huge hit and restricting herself to a $4m budget. Given all this, for her next movie she will be able to get a substantially larger budget with Hollywood money, and she will be able to continue to be one of those rare filmmakers with final cut. And given who her father is, she seems to no longer be in his shadow after having made only two films, which is kind of impressive.

Update: Even more than being voiceover, the words I have quoted above are verbatim from the last paragraph of the novel The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides, which I have browsed but know more than that. I really must go and read it some time.

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