Daily Archives: Monday, July 15, 2013

  • The Bling Ring Sofia Coppola (Usa 2013)

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    The Bling Ring Sofia Coppola (USA
    2013) Katie Chang; Israel Broussard; Emma Watson,

    Viewed Tyneside Cinema: 9 July 2013
    Ticket: £8

    The prefatory announcement at the start
    of a film that it is “based on a true story” or “inspired by
    actual events” engenders within me a certain sense of foreboding.
    It’s true there have been some wonderful films so based, such as
    William Wyler’s ‘ Ace in the Hole.’ But often film makers, when
    trying to exploit a true story, are overburdened by too many facts,
    overwhelmed by a need for authenticity, and are often unable to take
    full possession of the narrative develop it as their own story.

    So I wondered what Sofia Coppola would
    make of the 2009 LA celebrity burglaries, planned and carried out by
    teenage girls? What might she offer up to the Gods of film by way of
    a spin on what it means to be young female and American?

    In ‘Spring Breaks’ Harmony Korine
    offered up a voluptuous transgressive take on the American female
    psyche, and with all guns blazing the girls came out on top. In
    Bling Ring likewise, it’s girls on top; but whereas Korine
    understands the significance of his protagonists, Sofia Coppola’s
    plot gets lost in translation, and is unable to come to terms with
    the forces at work in the situation.

    As I watched Bling Ring I found myself
    starting to have ‘Wizard of Oz’ moments. Rebecca, the main
    character, started to insinuate herself as a sort of re-incarnate
    Dorothy. She is swept away not by a Kansas twister, but by the LA
    whirlwind of celebrity worship. Perhaps celebrity fetishism is more
    accurate descriptive label of her condition. All those teenage
    hormones, Rebeca’s sexuality is displaced away from the insecurity of
    the adolescent body and transferred onto comparative safety of
    celebrity designer wear. Rebecca meets up with Marc, a sort of
    composite Tin Man/ Lion/Scarecrow but in fact an honorary girl, and
    she leads him and the other protagonists, the Munchkins, as they
    follow a make over Yellow Brick Road to the Wizard’s castle, in this
    case the Los Angeles A list celebrity homes and a series of fetish
    driven burglaries.

    The form of Bling Ring resembles a
    fairy tale. But not the darker sort of tale as told by the Brothers
    Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson, but rather a redacted Disney Story.
    A sort amalgam of Oz and Ali Baba that takes place in LA,
    re-imagined as a Never Never land of palaces and princesses. The
    treasure troves that are buried deep in the heart of the fairy
    mountain are replicated in Bling Ring, as being buried within the
    inner crypts of the female celebrities. The houses of these female
    celebrities resemble biomorphic stand-ins for their own bodies,
    replicating in visual detail both the externalities of face and skin,
    and the carnality of the secret vaginal passages that lead to the
    womb. Within the inner womb sanctum’s of the female celebrities the
    girls get the pay off – the stuff. Amidst rows of shoes dresses
    perfume jewellery bags the girls achieve a proxy orgasm, sexual
    energisation cathected onto the designed clothes and possessions of
    the objects of desire. The actual taking and possessing of the stuff
    is of secondary order to the primal connection with the Fetish in the
    form of the possessions of the celebrity goddesses.

    If you visit the British Museum will
    find something similar but more dignified in the cargo cult fetishes
    of the tribes of New Guinea.

    The problem with Bling Ring is that
    although all these powerful forces are set at work, Coppola seems
    barely able to cope with them. The fairy tale, the fetishism the
    biomorphic resonance of the architecture are all present, but under
    her direction remain possibilities rather than realisations. In
    relation to Bling Ring being a dystopian fairy tale, Coppola sketches
    the outlines, but then abandons the idea, retreating to the safety of
    a mechanical playing out of the facts.

    The music in Bling Ring is interesting
    and even suggestive. It is mostly rap and hip hop in style but
    without angst or anger. When you castrate this sort of music, it
    starts to sound like nursery rhythms which is what I heard. This
    made me feel that the Bling Ring would probably have worked better
    imitating the form of the Wizard of Oz and been devised as a musical.
    A dysfunctional musical driven by rap bursary rhythms might have
    provided Bling Ring with a rich suggestive architecture of illicit
    desire intention and motive.

    The structure of the film further
    weakens the impact of its symbolic cues. Coppola’s scenario employs
    the tired old formula of the flashback. It presents the various
    scenes as perspectives from police and psychiatric interviews with
    the protagonists after they have been caught. This device slows the
    film, destroys what little tension there is in Copolla’s script and
    breaks up the psychic integrity of the action.

    Sofia Coppola’s film comes across more
    as more an endorsement of celebrity life style than any sort of
    attempt to probe the strangeness of its distorted realities. She
    prefers to gloss over the soft wiring of her material, treating it as
    a narrative rather than an opportunity to unwind the psychic
    disturbances at the core of the displaced energy of mainstream

    Sofia Coppola had a strong subject
    with great potential but overloaded by a need to be authentic she
    falls victim to the curse of basing her movie on ‘true events’.

    Adrin Neatrour