The ’80s has been called the decade when “predictability lost its cache.” Kids wanted to be the freewheeling Ferris Bueller, Madonna proved that shock sells, and enfant terribles like Jean Paul Gaultier ruled the runways. At first sight, those bold and brash years seem at odds with Sofia Coppola’s charmed, ethereal worlds.
Yet ’80s throwbacks are rife in her work – albeit infused with Coppola’s beguiling subtlety, dark humour and on point fashion sensibility. Who else would have put Scarlett Johansson in a glam rock pink wig while belting out karaoke hits in Lost in Translation? Or juxtaposed Versailles chic with post-punk beats in Marie Antoinette? “The ’80s was when I was a teenager, so it made a big impression on shaping me into who I am,” says the director.
Coppola belongs to Hollywood’s Generation X, alongside other auteurs, such as Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson, who came of age during Tinseltown’s era of excess. Once written off as the dazed and confused, the whimsy and wanderings of their early adulthood have blossomed into idiosyncratic cult hits. Coppola’s own lost years, including a brutally panned stab at acting and flirtation with fashion design, have been well documented. It was only when Coppola got behind the camera – showing us the world through her eyes –that the multiple perspectives that compose her rich point of view came together.
Today, the filmmaker’s slant is so sought after, the phrase “I want Sofia Coppola to direct my life” has become something of a modern-day mantra. Coppola’s filter has the ability to romanticise any story – be it about being trapped in an existential crisis in LA, fame-obsessed teenagers on a robbing spree, or the highly-anticipated reintroduction of Cartier’s Panthere de Cartier watch from 1983.
Perfectly timed, her ad for the brand puts Coppola’s golden spin on an era that has been seeing a revival. “The ’80s were decadent and glamorous. To me, the women looked like women. They had a grown-up sophistication,” she shares, explaining the inspirations behind the casting of Courtney Eaton alongside Donna Summer’s daughters, and the choice of luscious locations including Giorgio’s night club and the Fox Mansion.
“I thought about what I loved from that time – going to Mr Chow’s, Lauren Hutton in American Gigolo, Helmut Newton, French Vogue, and above all, the music and the optimism…”, she says. The Panthere itself is so ingeniously worked in, we find ourselves wanting the woman, the lifestyle, and the watch. After all, few understand the power of suggestion better than Coppola. “It’s just about having a little flash of gold that reminds us of the disco era,” she says.
American Gigolo film still Everett Collection All other photos Patrick Kovarik, Ron Galella & Victor Virgile/Getty Images
This story first appeared in Female’s September 2017 issue.