The Bling Ring Sofia Coppola (Usa 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

Author: Adrin Neatrour

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