Sofia Coppola’s Rise from Teenage Dream to Screen Queen

By Lilly Ball

In 2004, Sofia Coppola, fresh off the set of her Academy Award-nominated film “Lost in Translation,” was interviewed by David Letterman. Despite already having two celebrated films under her belt, Letterman subjected Coppola to a slew of questions about her father, the famed Francis Ford. At that moment, it was made clear that Coppola was doomed with her inescapable identity as the daughter of “The Godfather,” regardless of the opportunities that came along with it.

A full 13 years later, Coppola has been awarded the title of best director at Cannes for her film “The Beguiled,” despite the festival’s overtly sexist past, making her only the second woman ever to have won. Cannes, a highly respected film festival held annually in France, only had one other best female director in the past 71 years.

Since that critical Letterman interview, Coppola has blessed her adoring audiences with films such as “Marie Antoinette” and  “Somewhere,” each boasting such ethereal beauty that it is clear she deserves a title of none other than auteur. Coppola’s films seem to follow a certain theme of blonde tragedy, placing viewers right in the hearts of young girls facing their own unique hardships, whether it be loneliness, heartbreak, or an oncoming revolution.

Through each film, Coppola has created a world where girls rule and woe is somehow romantic, against a backdrop of hip soundtracks and dazzling cinematography. (What other director would put songs by The Strokes in a period drama?) She has come to know audiences so unlike her father’s, ones who value romance rather than gang violence, and has established herself as a separate Coppola, one better suited for a generation of aesthetically-obsessed Tumblr users most concerned with female power. From “The Virgin Suicides” to “The Bling Ring,” Coppola’s work has become prevalent on film and aesthetic blogs alike.

Her latest film, “The Beguiled,” appears to follow the same theme of female independence, with a bit more madness this time around. Based upon a novel written by Thomas P. Cullinan and the 1971 film directed by Don Siegel, Coppola takes this tale of female vengeance — one that has previously only been told by men — and makes it her own. Starring a few of her favorite Hollywood blondes, Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst, Coppola presents a story much darker than her previous ones,  with even “The Virgin Suicides” displaying a more vibrant tone. “The Beguiled” follows the lives of a group of young women sheltered away at a girls’ school in the deep south during the Civil War. When a wounded soldier arrives, the school takes him in, exposing them to a rare masculine figure, thus disrupting their lives and tainting their sanctuary.

This certainly isn’t the first time that men have played the role of antagonist in a Coppola film either; who could forget the cruelty of the dreamy yet asinine Trip Fontaine (“The Virgin Suicides”) or the ignorance of the seemingly-perfect John (“Lost in Translation”)? Coppola somehow manages to recreate the trials of girlhood for the big screen, disappointing boyfriends and all, though displayed through a candy-colored lens. Sofia Coppola truly is the queen of teen idols, tragedy and atomic blondes.

But after five feature films, why is it “The Beguiled” that has awarded Coppola such a prestigious title, when just a little over 10 years ago Cannes crowds booed “Marie Antoinette”? The film, which will be released in theaters on June 23, has been praised by critics, though it is Coppola’s first attempt at a thriller. Lacking her token “dreaminess,” it appears that Coppola is embracing a new, more somber style, though her traditional pink typography featured on the poster cannot be ignored.