It’s been a big week for women in film.
Wonder Woman opened internationally with a strong response from critics and sturdy box office sales, hopefully giving studios more confidence that female directors, like Patty Jenkins, are bankable and should be positioned at the helm of big blockbuster stories, and not just those with female leads.
Jessica Chastain, one of this year’s Cannes’ Jury Members, made an impassioned speech about the lack of authentic female characters she saw in this year’s competition films, unable to personally identify with the women or find similarities between those on screen and the women that surround her.
Nicole Kidman pledged to work with a female director every 18 months, pinpointing the necessity of females in the industry to be supportive of one another.
And, this year’s best director accolade went to Sofia Coppola for The Beguiled, a previous version of which came out in the 70s, directed by a man and with Clint Eastwood as its star. According to the critics who watched the film at Canne, Coppola’s rendition deliberately and successfully positions the women in the story at its core.
In Cannes’ Film Festival’s 70-year history this is only the second time that the best director award has been bestowed to a female filmmaker.
Sofia Coppola received high praise for the seminal Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides, Somewhere, and more mixed responses for The Bling Ring, and Marie Antoinette (though personally, I think the later may be my favourite Coppola flick to watch.) Her filmography is impressive and you can ascertain a distinct style from that collection: dreamy, hazy films with young women at the centre who emerge into privileged worlds that they feel disconnected to. Born into a film dynasty, a hefty portion of her family tree can also be found on IMDB: Francis Ford Coppola; Roman Coppola; Nicolas Cage; Jason Schwartzman; Gia Coppola. It’s perhaps no surprise that she went into the movie making business, though of course, this doesn’t guarantee that her work would be any good.
She entered into the business as an actor, including a performance in The Godfather Part III that earned her cripplingly bad reviews and was a role thrust on her after the contracted actress Winona Ryder fell ill. Seemingly not destined to appear in films, she switched tactics and stepped behind the camera making the cult classic The Virgin Suicides, which was the first time she joined forces with frequent collaborator Kirsten Dunst.
It was a quick jump to the big leagues. Perhaps her most high-profile film, Lost in Translation, won her an Oscar for best original screenplay. Featuring a fractured central relationship between Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson, I can’t believe that anyone watches that film without vehemently wishing for them to strike out alone and make it work together. Japan provides an escapist backdrop for two people looking to dislocate themselves from their lives, seeking new answers. Bill Murray has stated that Lost In Translation is his favourite movie that he’s been in, and, ‘Lip my stockings’ will forever remain one of cinema’s funniest lines.
So, here’s to Sofia Coppola, one of the most exciting film directors out there, smashing those records to set a trend of more female-led work getting made.