Chris Palazzolo revisits The Bling Ring. Written, directed and produced by Sofia Coppola, 2013.
A deluxe architecturally designed house with angular white balconies and porticos, shimmering blue swimming pool and immaculate interiors visible through glass frontages and sliding doors, sits nestled in a grove of trees at the top of Summit Drv in Beverly Hills, while the vast constellation of Los Angeles’ empires twinkle in the distance. The house emits an unearthly blue light into the clear still night like a mosquito coil, and around its balconies and through its many entrances, the tiny figures of six people can be seen moving quickly in and out and around like moths and midges. The only sounds are the creaks of night insects and the remote chop chop of a surveillance helicopter.
This is the signature shot of Sophia Coppola’s The Bling Ring. It takes place around two thirds of the way into the film, after all the principle elements have been set up; the ring of young kleptogroovers at the peak of its nocturnal activities, and, crucially, those activities now known by the media, so they are themselves celebrities (albeit ones without faces or identities), while another power, unglamorous, grey and imminent, enforcing the steel girdering of property ownership over which hovers the entrancing glitter of fame and wealth that draws the sticky fingers of the ring members in the first place, hovers sleeplessly in the near distance.
What The Bling Ring is about; the peculiar combination of covetous contempt and narcissistic veneration which is celebrity worship, is the least interesting thing about it. The group of teenagers who effortlessly break into the houses of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan et al are essentially the same as the objects of their criminal obsessions; healthy and vacuous, taking for granted without any question at all, that the necessities of life are taken care of – except for one crucial distinction; the celebrities are Somethings and the members of the Bling Ring are Nothings, stuck in remedial school and destined for ordinary jobs. Unless of course they prove themselves to be as venal and shallow as the world they’re breaking into. Then they can become Somethings too. The whole thing is a kind of narcissistic feedback loop very much like Martin Scorsese’s satire from 1980, The King of Comedy, except minus Jerry Lewis and Robert Di Niro.
What is most interesting is the way it happens. Up until the shot of the house on Summit Drive, the film plays a game of chicken with the viewer. There is almost no tension at all during the break-ins, because the keys to the houses and the Maserati’s are all found under the mat, and the cine-verité style generates little dramatic or psychological interest in the motivations of these teenagers. But when we see that house, with the little figures flitting in and out like moths around a light we realise perhaps that we’re watching a kind of science fiction. The house functions like the matter transport booths in The Fly, where a man and a housefly were genetically fused to form a hybrid creature. Its glass entrances, angular passageways, and entrancing light is a celebrity incubator where the process of metamorphosis takes place (surveillance footage), transforming the faceless celebrity-pupae of the Bling Ring into full-blown celebrities. They have to do their short stint in jail of course, to brand the recognition of private property into them, but once that’s done, they now have faces and profiles as recognisable and exotic as the wings of butterflies. The world of blogs, twitter, and reality tv is now theirs.
– Chris Palazzolo
Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and manager of one of the last video shops in the world – Network Video, Roleystone.
You can find out more about Teasing Threads here: https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2015/07/10/introducing-chris-palazzolos-teasing-threads-sundry-film-and-literary-criticism/
The Bling Ring’s website: http://theblingring.com/