Sofia Coppola has had what could accurately be described as an incredible career as a director. Beginning in 1999 with The Virgin Suicides, each movie has been a unique thing, a touchpoint for the culture, it seems, as well as often being a lightning rod. She’s never not taken chances, though, even if her movies have some similarities. Each one has been unique in its own way.
With the release of The Beguiled, her sixth directorial effort, I wanted to look back on one of the three movies of hers I haven’t already done campaign reviews for, including Somewhere, Marie Antoinette and now The Beguiled. It was impossible to pick just one, though, and so for today’s Flashback MMM we’re going to take condensed looks at all three films I haven’t previously covered in-depth.
The Virgin Suicides
It’s a simple poster, but it makes an impact. The face of Lux Lisbon (played by Kirsten Dunst) is shown sideways as if she’s laying on a pillow looking at the person next to her. It’s an intimate image, to be sure, and the soft lighting at the top not only adds to that but also lends a sense of dreaminess to it, like it’s not quite real. That really helps set the tone.
The trailer opens with a similar image, only she’s laying on the football field in the dark. Narration from one of the boys in the story tells us how the story of the girls has stuck with them for years. We hear about how much the boys loved those girls, no matter what problems they’d had. There’s not much about the story that’s shared here aside from those few cryptic comments. We see shots that look like normal teenage activity involving sneaking around, getting into some degree of trouble and so on. So that narration does a lot of the heavy lifting, with the visuals more focused on setting the style of the movie more than anything else.
Lost in Translation
While the movie’s DVD cover prominently features star Bill Murray wearing a small robe and sitting on the edge of his hotel bed, the theatrical poster didn’t show the actor at all. Instead, it just used Scarlett Johannson, shown here holding an umbrella as she walks down the streets of Tokyo, surrounded be the massive neon signs of downtown. “Everyone wants to be found” we’re told at the top, showing that this is a movie about identity and purpose, about realizing your potential.
We immediately meet Bob, the movie star played by Murray, as the trailer opens. he’s shooting a whiskey commercial but is having a rough time on set. In fact, he’s having a rough time in general. Then he meets Charlotte and the two strike up a friendship since she’s got nothing but free time as her photographer husband is off working. The two hang out and discuss life, ranging from her lack of direction to his midlife crisis. We see plenty of jokes related to the clash of cultures but it ends with Charlotte putting her head on Bob’s shoulder, showing the friendly intimacy that’s grown between the two of them.
The Bling Ring
We immediately get the setting on the poster as the whole crew of friends walk down the high-fashion streets of Hollywood. They’re all decked out in the latest threads and look cocky and entitled as they stroll. Copy at the top takes a slightly more comedic tone, as well as a more generic one, by saying “Living the dream, one heist at a time.” That’s not very specific to this movie and is the weaker for it.
We meet a group of friends as the trailer begins and see how obsessed they are with the high-flying lifestyle of celebrities like Paris Hilton and Lyndsey Lohan. Nicki (Watson) wants to take it a step further and rob the B-listers whose houses they decide to break into, stealing clothes and accessories to outfit their own lives. Eventually, the authorities catch on to them and the whole scheme comes crashing down, but that doesn’t stop Nicki and others from trying to portray themselves as the wronged party deserving of a second chance.
Drawing out the Commonalities
Looking more closely at these three movies as well as the three I’ve done full campaign roundups for there are a few things that jump out as being consistently used across Coppola’s campaigns:
Big bold lettering: Look at the poster for The Bling Ring as well as its trailer and those two elements for Marie Antoinette. They use large-scale fonts, often placed against bright neon backgrounds. Coppola wants to make an impression and is using imagery that looks as if it were pulled from the world of glam-rock to do so.
Catchy music: Speaking of which, her use of music in trailers is something on its own. From 80s punk to the latest dance beats, the music is up front and in the audience’s face throughout. And time period doesn’t make any difference.
Feminism and privilege: If there’s one area Coppola consistently gets dinged in it’s that she almost always tells stories involving well-off individuals. It’s clear in the marketing of all her films that the characters whose story we’re following are not in the middle class here. Even in the marketing of The Virgin Suicides, which is about a middle-class suburban family, the girls are presented as better than the rest, above the rabble. And all her movies’ campaigns take pains to put the women’s story first, over and above that of any man. That’s particularly notable in Lost in Translation, which eschews Murray on the poster entirely.
All that makes me believe Coppola has a strong hand in deciding the direction of the marketing for her films. Unless there’s one person she’s been turning to for almost 20 years who’s applied the same aesthetic to the campaigns for six movies, it only makes sense that she’s hands-on in this area. So, operating under that assumption, you can draw the conclusion that this is how she herself wants people to see her movies, this is the brand identity she wants them to have. Extrapolating from that, it’s the brand identity not only for the movies but, because of the high-level commonalities between them, it’s at least part of the brand identity she’s created – and is creating – for herself.