With only three feature films, Sofia Coppola has already roused supersize portions of both praise and disdain. I am firmly planted in the former camp; Coppola's Lost in Translation (2003), is the best American movie I've seen since the year 2000. It's only too easy to explain the latter camp: Americans have never been too fond of women in powerful positions, and because of her obvious connections her detractors believe that she doesn't deserve her position. To many, she's just "daddy's little girl," and is only allowed to play on the big boys' field because of his guidance and protection.

There are even rumors that Sofia's brother Roman (her second unit director) actually directed her movies, which is ludicrous given that Roman's own directorial debut, CQ (2002), is nowhere near as good as Sofia's three films (which also includes last year's misunderstood Marie Antoinette). Historically, women directors have had difficult times sustaining long careers in Hollywood. If they lose any money, they suffer the consequences, whereas men can spend and lose ten times as much without fearing for their jobs.

Even more difficult to explain and defend is that Coppola is not really a natural born storyteller like her father. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. It's a mistake to consider cinema as merely an agent for storytelling; it has so many other possibilities. And, indeed, filmmakers like Orson Welles, Ingmar Bergman, Luis Bunuel, Federico Fellini, Mario Bava, Monte Hellman, Robert Bresson, David Lynch, Jim Jarmusch, F.W. Murnau, Hou Hsiao-hsien and many others are likewise not necessarily praised or beloved for their ability to tell a clear, concise story. That skill is not required for one to be considered a great cinema artist.

categories Features, Cinematical