Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Alone on Display: Sofia Coppola's "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself"

The seeds of one of Sofia Coppola's most controversial and puzzling works were planted via a conversation she had with Jack White regarding the possibility of her directing a video for The White Stripes tremendous Bacharach and David cover of "I Just Don't Know What to do with Myself."  When asked by White how she envisioned the video Sofia responded with what he thought was an off the cuff remark of, "I don't know -- how about Kate Moss doing a pole dance?"  He was probably more than a little surprised when just a few weeks later he was sitting in a studio with Sofia watching Kate doing just this in a startling black and white video Sofia shot with cinematographer Lance Acord.  As Sofia recalled to Lynn Hirschberg in a 2003 New York Times interview, the idea for the video came about, "because I would like to see it. That's the way I work: I try to imagine what I would like to see.''

Like her feature films, "I Just Don't Know What to do With Myself" is simultaneously sexy and lonely.  Coppola films Moss with an obvious adoration, and Kate commands the screen the same way she has always controlled the camera, but she's shown in such stark isolation.  There is no audience, no other soul in sight...just the lights, the pole and Kate dancing for a ghost that only she knows.  The video is both empty and erotic and never less than dazzling.  Speaking of the short film Coppola mentioned, "’I know we’re making a sexy video, but it’s sort of brave not to show too much. We want it to be a little Fosse, but I also want it to have that weird Factory feel.”

"I Just Don't Know What to do With Myself" wouldn't be the first or last time pole dancing would feature in a Sofia Coppola film.  A famous moment set to Peaches "Fuck the Pain Away" highlights one of the funniest moments in Lost in Translation while one of the saddest moments in Somewhere features two dancers.  A recent preview of The Bling Ring shows Emma Watson on a stage as well. 

The White Stripes have sadly never released a compilation DVD of their many striking videos but "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" can easily be seen on the internet for anyone who hasn't experienced it. 

-Jeremy Richey, 2013-

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