Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Life Without Zoe (1989)

I've been meaning to blog about this film for the longest time. As is the case with many of my favourite films, I caught this on TV one night about 3 years ago, as the late late movie. I switched the channel halfway through the 'Life Lessons' segment, obviously my attention was peaked when "Life Without Zoe" appeared on screen. Its rare enough to see my name on screen, obviously, two minutes in and I was enraptured by the energy and cultivated je ne sais quois of the young narrator.

Life Without Zoe is the second of three shorts, featuring in the anthology film New York Stories (1989). It is a sort of film noir spoof for kids, or those of us young at heart. Its a movie for girls, of all ages. You're not supposed to take it too seriously, just enjoy it with a youthful naivety. The sometimes condescending tone of a poor-little-rich-girl in New York is overshadowed by the limitless bounds of Zoe's imagination and eagerness to share her zest for life with everyone she meets, the name 'Zoe' being greek, for 'life'.

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, it was styled and written by his 18 year old daughter Sofia, well known to us now, of The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation fame.

Zoe is a 12 year old schoolgirl, who lives, frequently unsupervised by her jet-setting parents, in the Sherry Netherland Hotel in Manhattan (where the Coppolas stayed while Mr. Coppola was making The Cotton Club).

Zoe's father in the movie is a flautist, like Sofia's own grandfather, Carmine Coppola, who passed away a year after its release, in 1990.

I wonder if Sofia drew these!

Zoe has a serious penchant for Chanel. Fun fact: Sofia interned at Chanel over two summers when she was in high school and they custom made some of the costumes for this film, based on Sofia's designs. I love the hint of a grunge aesthetic in this outfit, with the classic two tone pumps and ripped jeans.

So many glorious hats, why has hat wearing become relatively obsolete post-90s? Actually, I think the hats are my favourite part of the movie, so many bows, ribbons, netting and obnoxious Chanel logos!

Little rich girls like to play around in their mothers wardrobes too!

We all made invites/cards that resembled these, and the glitter remained in the carpet for years after, or fell out of drawers and pockets for months afterward much to our mothers' collective despair - but wasn't it worth it?

The prodigal father returns, suitably attired in a dapper panama hat.

Oh the costumes, the costumes! This is how upper east side girls do costume parties!

I dreamt of costume parties like this, almost, in fact this is just too perfect, too extravagant for my country girl imagination. This scene calls to mind the Masquerade Ball scene from Marie Antoinette (2006).

I adore this tongue in cheek pop culture reference. Mini Warhol and Sedgwick! Note the Campbell soup can prop!

This is one of my favourite sequences! Some of the girls are so shy during their mini dance routine. Its all so fantastical, especially with the tight rope walker in the background, and their co-ordinating dresses!

Correct me if I'm wrong but I think the cute matador on the left may be a young Adrien Brody in his first film role! Oh and that's Kid Creole playing in the background. Seriously, do parties like this exist?!

This metropolitan fairytale has a Princess too!

A family resolution, upper east side style, in the Russian tea rooms, oh my. I only wish we could have been introduced to the luxe interior that this scene teases us with.

Sincerely embarrassed for the quality of this photo, but this was my most coveted item in the whole movie: the Chanel veiled boater. Perfection in hat form.

For such a colourful individual, Zoe's palate is chic monochrome. In the true spirit of Chanel, darling.

The premise of the story is frothy, childish, but it gave Sofia a chance to show off her inherited aesthetic talent, her eye for colour and inclination for the dramatic.

You might like...
Sofia Coppola at Senses of Cinema
"The Teen Who Co-Wrote A Movie Script", 1989 Chicago Tribune article

I have screencapped the film, .png format, in two .zip files of approx 200 images each. Password is the first word of my blog name.


  1. cant believe I'ver seen this film!

  2. If my plans for tonight don't work out, this is a more than tempting Plan B.

  3. i know what i'll be watching this evening:)x