Stanley Kubrick was one of the reigning cinematic geniuses of the 20th century, but the defining behavioral trait of the last 30 years of his life was an increasing tendency to lead a hermetic, hidden-away life. I’ve long felt that this isolation made his films seem more and more porcelain and pristine, and less flesh-and-blood. I mentioned this once to Jan Harlan, Kubrick’s brother in law, and he didn’t disagree. “That was the man,” he said. I feel that Kubrick became a kind of cautionary tale.
I wouldn’t imply that Sofia Coppola has become an artistic equal of Kubrick’s, but she does know, as Kubrick did, about fashioning cinematic realms with great care and exactitude, and so it’s fair, I think, to ask if she’s going down the Kubrick path in other ways. Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson seems to think so. Yesterday she scolded Somewhere‘s director-writer for succumbing to a kind of isolationist lifestyle and mentality, and urged her to “open up to other collaborators and voices.”
It’s been widely observed that Coppola has focused too often on passive, well-off characters indulging in aimless doodling and wandering inside swank abodes (hotels, palaces). And that she’s enacted too many “daughters and fathers, passive female figures and powerful men” stories. She’s obviously drawing upon her life as Francis Coppola‘s priveleged daughter. But the main reason reason, said Thompson, is that Coppola is “living inside a protected, hermetic world of friends, family and Coppolas, producer-father Francis and brother Roman.”
Thompson’s opinion seems to have emerged from (or been partly shaped by) an interview she recently did with producer Scott Rudin. Her Coppla piece noted that Rudin “had a project for her to consider, but when he tried to reach her, he couldn’t get close.”
A producer has told me the same thing. If you have a project you want to discuss with Coppola, you “can’t get past the agent…nobody can. You can’t get a meeting and you can’t float something to her. You only can submit a script with an offer.”
All artists have to taste experience and expose themselves to as much life’s push-pull as possible, but I wonder how many other directors have operated (and arguably done well) out of a carefully controlled, hermetically sealed place?
Ten or eleven years ago I wrote how Eyes Wide Shut was a fascinating stiff that essentially portrayed Kubrick’s decline. I referred to Eyes Wide Shut as a perfect white tablecloth but also one that feels stiff and unnatural from too much starch.
“If you want your art to matter, stay in touch with the burly-burly. Keep in the human drama, take walks, go to baseball games, chase women, argue with waiters, ride motorcycles, hang out with children, play poker, visit Paris as often as possible and always keep in touch with the craggy old guy with the bad cough who runs the news stand.”