Sofia Coppola honored her New York City roots — and one of its most renowned cultural institutions — with a new short film for the New York City Ballet. Shot in black-and-white by her “On the Rocks” and “The Beguiled” cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd, the film features the music of Frédéric Chopin, Igor Stravinsky, Johannes Brahms, and more, and choreography from dance legend Jerome Robbins, among others. Previewing five new works, the short was filmed on location at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, and serves as a fundraiser introducing New York City Ballet’s spring season, and first-ever virtual gala.
“The challenge for me was to convey the feeling of seeing live dance,” Coppola told The New York Times. “A lot of dance is filmed in a very flat, standard way. But getting close up, which is thrilling in rehearsal, doesn’t always translate onto film either. I had to move the camera much more than I am used to, and try to give the feel of experiencing a live performance from different vantage points.”
Justin Peck, resident choreographer and artistic adviser at New York City Ballet, added that Coppola was first on the institution’s list to helm the film. “She was so responsive and excited about it, and warm to speak to that it just turned into a wonderful process,” he said.
The film eventually segues into color for the final segment. “I wanted the end to be a celebration and a coming back to life, and hoped I could switch to color without it being too corny. I love the contrast between the rehearsals and backstage, then tutus and lights; it’s like a fantasy of what ballet is when you’re a little kid. Also the pale blues and yellows of the ‘Divertimento’ costumes are so pretty, like spring colors coming to life,” Coppola said.
Coppola’s next project is an adaptation of the Edith Wharton classic novel “The Custom of the Country” for Apple TV+. The Oscar winner for “Lost in Translation” (Best Original Screenplay) is writing and directing all episodes of the limited series, which follows Undine Spragg, a Midwestern girl who attempts to ascend in New York City society.
Below, watch the short, which starts just before the six-minute mark.