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  Virgin Suicides, The what it feels like for a girl
Year: 1999
Director: Sofia Coppola
Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Hannah Hall, Kathleen Turner, James Woods, Josh Hartnett, Scott Glenn, Danny DeVito, Michael Paré, Giovanni Ribisi
Genre: Drama, Romance, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  9 (from 4 votes)
Review: A moving and magical experience, Sofia Coppola’s feature film debut evokes adolescence as a dreamy journey of wonder, yearning and incommunicable sorrow. Set during the mid-seventies, amidst the melancholy-tinted summer of our dreams, our only guide is a nameless narrator (Giovanni Ribisi) recounting the tragedy that befell the five, ethereally beautiful Lisbon girls. 13-year-old Cecilia (Hannah Hall) slashes her wrists in a plaintive, cry for help ignored by her straight-laced, overly protective parents (James Woods and Kathleen Turner). During a well-intentioned, but disastrous party thrown by the Lisbons, Cecilia leaps to her death from her bedroom window, but returns periodically as a friendly ghost. Meanwhile, her sensual, outspoken sister Lux (Kirsten Dunst) falls for local stud Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett – never better). Things turn sour following their one night stand. Lux loses herself in sexual adventures, Mrs. Lisbon tightens her hold on the ‘wayward’ girls, while the lovestruck neighbourhood boys reach out in vain. Nothing, it seems, can prevent the encroaching tragedy.

Coppola’s filmic style has been much derided in recent times, and one feels compelled to defend her as a major artist. Few filmmakers are as gifted at translating intangible feelings and innermost thoughts into a wondrous visual grammar. Cinema poets like Alain Resnais and Wong Kar Wai must rank among her influences, but the nearest aesthetic comparisons can be found in the florid world of shōjo manga (Japanese girls’ comics). In shōjo sexual discovery becomes a flower blossom, adolescent longing is a bright star blazing across the sky, broken hearts fracture time and space – all images found here, via Coppola’s inspired use of time lapse, split screen, oversaturated colours, superimpositions and gorgeous, golden hued cinematography by Edward Lachman. This isn’t style for style’s sake; it’s filmmaking straight from the id. She takes us right inside a young girl’s mind, mixing heady romanticism and beguiling humour. For Coppola, sensitive types struggling to articulate inexpressible feelings are what it’s all about. Perhaps that’s why her detractors disparage her so. Amidst an impatient world, it’s an unfashionable theme, but few filmmakers are as gifted at conveying the utter joy of reaching out to someone and being miraculously understood. Or conversely, the despair of feeling trapped and ignored. A key scene has the Lisbon girls communicate with the neighbourhood boys by playing records over the phone. It’s silly, touching, and magical – a perfect encapsulation of adolescence.

Adapting a novel by Jeffrey Eugenides, Coppola grounds her dreamy reverie in razor sharp observations on high school, suburban life and societies inability to deal with tragedy, teenage angst and loneliness. She draws fantastic performances from James Woods (delightfully uncharacteristic as a shy, awkward father), and Hannah Hall as soulful Cecilia. Kirsten Dunst, among the finest actresses of her generation, dazzles as the desirable, heartbroken golden girl. Coppola’s mid-film montage is practically a hymn to her effervescent, blonde beauty. The Virgin Suicides weaves a delicate spell, as hypnotic as its spine-tingling soundtrack by Air. A modern classic.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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Sofia Coppola  (1971 - )

The first American woman to be nominated for a best director Oscar, Sofia Coppola was born into a film making family, being the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, and she got her start in the business appearing in her father's films such as Rumblefish, Peggy Sue Got Married and, notoriously, The Godfather Part III.

However, she acquitted herself as a movie talent in her own right with the haunting teen drama The Virgin Suicides and the poignant Japanese-set comedy Lost in Translation, for which she won a best screenplay Oscar. Marie Antoinette, however, was not as well received, but her follow-up Somewhere was better thought of, and true crime yarn The Bling Ring raised her profile once again, with her version of The Beguiled winning a prize at Cannes. She is the sister of fellow director Roman Coppola and the cousin of actors Nicolas Cage and Jason Schwartzman.

 
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