Rumble Fish (1983)

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If you could have written one book in your life and you had a choice out of everything what would it be? I’ll nail my colours here and say I would love to have been Susie Hinton and wish that I was capable of writing something so plaintively romantic and atmospheric and attracting Francis Ford Coppola to the camera when it came to adapting it for the screen. (Isn’t it better to have written a wonderful, meaningful, heartfelt book that is so small it fits in your pocket and everyone has read at an important time in their lives than a large tome nobody has?). He shot this back to back with The Outsiders, that other great short novel she wrote. And it all happened because her fans at a Fresno school petitioned Coppola to do it. It’s the story of smalltown Oklahoma teenage gangs. Rusty James (Matt Dillon) leads one of them. He lives with his drunkard dad (Dennis Hopper) and he’s not too smart. He worships his absent older brother, The Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke channeling Albert Camus) who’s a pretty legendary guy around these parts, at least when gangs ruled the roost and he ruled the gangs. Rusty James breaks his brother’s anti-rumble pact, the Motorcycle Boy reappears and everything changes … A beautiful, stately, painterly work  (by Stephen H. Burum) in monochrome – with the exception of those colourful Siamese fighting fish! – when all the actors were young and oh so achingly beautiful (with the obvious exceptions of Hopper and trash star William Smith). This is one of those films you either get or you don’t. With an homage to Penrod, an amazingly choreographed fight scene or two, a love story with Diane Lane and a radical score by Stewart Copeland, there’s only one thing left to say:  The Motorcycle Boy Reigns.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)


Bueller? Bueller? The singing in the shower. The singing on the street! The Ferrari going off the edge … The escape from the restaurant. The art gallery. The chase across the back yards. Charlie Sheen hitting on Jeanie in the police station. The scam with the headmaster! The dog ON the headmaster! The school secretary. The disguises. Faking it! The music! The clothes! It’s set over a day, it was written in a week, shot in three months. It has the clean lines of a Tintin strip courtesy of Hughes’ regular cinematographer Tak Fujimoto and design by John W. Corso. Matthew Broderick as the charming one became a star and we all fell in love with this. Broderick and Alan Ruck were real-life best friends and hey, John Hughes was a genius. Aw heck, it’s just a forever movie. Bueller? Bueller?!

The Bling Ring (2013)

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Your butt looks awesome. Sofia Coppola’s interpretation of the notorious gang of narcissistic Calabasas nitwits who trolled the stars of reality TV and robbed them while they were out of town gets a rather bittersweet treatment (the story had already been a TVM but Coppola’s work derives from the Vanity Fair article by Nancy Jo Sales who has also written a book on the subject). The godhead of these brain-dead self-obsessed monsters is stardom itself, the venality espoused by The Secret is their mantra. Beautifully shot, with a disinctive palette and style for each of the nightlit robberies, this is a shocking insight into the mindset of the youth of today, driven by episodes of The Hills, where fashion is feeling and being a wannabe reality monster is all there is. You can feel Coppola’s desperate sorrow for a society which appears to be beyond satire. This is a kind of anthropological view of Adderall-addicted millennials who are clearly a generation without a clue. I’ve reviewed Fiona Handyside’s study of Coppola on Offscreen:

Something in the Air/Apres mai (2012)

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Oh to have been born in a well-to-do Parisian family and to have been an adolescent artist in revolutionary times. Such was the experience of estimable French director Olivier Assayas whose reminiscences form the basis of this tale, set in 1971 – three years After May (the original title). The lycee students Gilles, Christine and Alain are involved in an act of vandalism which hurts a security guard. They go their separate ways and take different paths to their own personal revolutions. The beautiful lighting, the tender display of friendships lost and retrieved, the political growth, the topless women and bottomless men, are but a somnolent groovy autumnal backdrop to the fetishising of paper in all its forms, a wonder in this digital age of ephemera. We are confronted with the texts of revolutionary writers in the classroom, screenplays for the TV series of Maigret, published by Gilles’ father; propaganda, sketches for Gilles’ artworks;  paintings and projections for the backdrops at rock happenings, books, letters, envelopes … paper is the basis for everything, intimately associated with feeling and memory and posterity.