I preordered Sofia Coppola’s Archive direct from Mack in mid-2023 about 12 seconds after I opened the announcement email…. As such, I received and unboxed it very close to its launch, and my goodness… the response was epic. At time of writing, the analytics are astonishing: my unboxing videos typically get about 100 views—100 views, ever. Archive hit 1000 views in 25 days and here, just over 2 months after its release, viewers have clicked the video 2083 times and watched for a total of 117 hours and almost a dozen left comments. Viewers typically watch my videos for about 3 hours and almost never comment. And I’m absolutely positive you’re not here to hear about my unboxing video’s metrics, if you’re here at all…
Archive is a collection of photographs and ephemera from Coppola’s films: stills, picturess of locations and actors lounging about or engaged in their work; bits of advertising and clothes and little collages of things; pages from scripts, tear sheets, storyboards, and the like; and so on. For a Coppola fan, it’s an instabuy without question.
Now. I wouldn’t call myself among Coppola’s fans, per se. Of her oeuvre, I’ve only seen Lost in Translation (and, as of the day before publication, The Bling Ring). What I am a fan of is archives, and find it sort of fascinating to see what photographers (and photography-adjacent figures) collect and how those collections impact their work. And I love the sort of photobook-as-collage or, rather, collage-as-photobook form that Archive takes.
The book opens with an interview with Lynn Hirschberg and proceeds directly into the films, starting with The Virgin Suicides and proceeding through Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, Somewhere, The Bling Ring, The Beguiled, On the Rocks, and Pricilla, which came out in late 2023, after the book appeared. Coppola introduces each film and shares brief anecdotes about various photographs throughout, and through these I came to recognize a sort of kinship with the director, a kind of kindred spirit thing.
Coppola is about 6, 7 years older than me, and so a solid Gen-Xer, where I’m at the tail end of that brilliantly forgotten generation, part of what’s known as the Carter babies or the Oregon Trail Generation. Anyway, you might imagine some little bit of similarity in our worldviews or whatever, insofar as two people, born 1000 miles and nearly a decade apart, and part of two completely different economic demographics would ordinarily be, which is to say, not at all alike, not really anyway. But the Coppola talks about meeting Hiromix—or seeing her photographs at least—in Japan and having a similar reaction to mine, so there’s that. And I too have—or had—a tendency to collect research materials, create little archives of periods or eras or moods or whatever.
Two brief anecdotes.
One: I used to collect little mementos of things from different activities: receipts from dates, birthday notes and balloons and valentine cards, ticket stubs from movies and concerts, the baggie from the last bit of
redacted I bought, newspaper and magazine clippings, obituaries, etc. I kept them all in a shoebox, if I recall. Then, sometime in the mid- or late-1990s I found a groovy notebook thing with a metal cover and after some time trying to think of something worth writing in it, I grabbed a glue stick and some Scotch tape and started pasting and taping all that stuff into it, forming a sort of archive of my mid- and late teens. I should scan this thing and put it up here on the blog maybe… or film a FlipThrough of it…. Anyway.
Two: In the early 2000s, I took part is a handful of paid surveys. I was about 6 months away from moving to Illinois to go to Art School, and I took part in one for Boone’s Farm, yes, that Boone’s Farm, where participants were told to bring a collage of their interests and whatnot. Well… I threw myself into it. A friend gave me a box of old canvas bank bags. I took a seam ripper to them and *boom: I had a bunch of medium sized canvases to paint on. I took one of those canvas bags and painted on it, stuck various things to it—including an empty quart can of linseed oil, and other things I don’t recall—and brought it into the survey. Every other participant, of course, came empty handed and the first hour of the survey was spent with them clipping and ripping things out of the sports and car magazines provided by the survey company. These were all scanned and kept by the survey; my thing was scanned in 6 parts and then given back to me, as it couldn’t be filed.*
So what does any of that have to do with Coppola? Well… look at Archive and you’ll see something very, very similar. In my teenage archive/journal thing, I ran out of cool stuff with a handful of pages left. Rather than wait to collect more groovy things, I took my stack of concert ticket stubs and stuck them in, three to a page, in rough date order one night under the influence of something or other. I flip through it maybe twice a decade and I’m always disappointed in my young self for not just ripping out those pages, for just phoning in the last couple pages. And there’s something of that in Archive too.
The documentation from Coppola’s earlier films feels looser, more experimental. As Coppola gains experience and renown, the archives turn, become more obviously work-product-like, to my eye anyway. Some of it comes down to Coppola getting older and all: my own archival instincts have changed dramatically: this blog (and my YouTube) is evidence, not that anyone is paying attention. This is not to say that Coppola’s more recent archives are lesser, but they are tighter, more focused, as they probably should be. Coppola has been making films for nearly 30 years: she certainly knows what she’s looking for, even when she’s between projects with no idea what to do next, and the archives show her development and progression and its fascinating to watch.
Archive makes me want to see more of Coppola’s films, and overall, I rate it a solid, recommended 4.5 stars.
Archive certainly was popular. The first printing sold out, and Mack saw enough demand to immediately reprint it. The second printing is expected November 28, 2023: if you’re reading this at time of publication, you have about a week to get in a preorder direct from Mack; if you’re reading it later, you may or may not be able to find a new or used copy elsewhere. If you have any interest in archives or filmmaking or Coppola in particular or her films or her particular sort of GenX view, then do yourself a favor and snag a copy while you can. It’s a great one.
*If you’re curious, the survey was an attempt to find ways to market Boone’s Farm to adult males in their early 20s. We ended up recommending an alcoholic Boone’s Farm energy drink, and as I recall, something like that appeared a few years later. Of course, I now find no evidence of it