“I’m not following you, I’m looking for you. There’s a big difference.” -Martin Stett . . . THE CONVERSATION
The Godfather, The Conversation, The Godfather Part II and Apocalypse Now are enough to cement Francis Ford Coppola’s place in the pantheon of great American directors. The four films released from 1972 to 1979 represent arguably the greatest decade for any director in American history. Coppola, along with Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen and George Lucas, were taking American cinema to the next level. What is there to be angry about? Scorsese went on to direct Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino and The Departed. Spielberg brought us into the world of Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. Allen introduced us to Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point. Lucas gave us three more Star Wars pictures and still has trucks dumping money in the back of Skywalker ranch. Coppola? Well . . . here is the problem . . .
The end of the 70’s marked the end of a golden era for Coppola. Two years after Apocalypse Now, Coppola released One From the Heart. The low budget musical set in Las Vegas was critically panned. In his review, Roger Ebert said the film was “An interesting production but not a good movie.” The film was a financial disaster and grossed $636,000 at the box office on a $26 million dollar budget. Heart would end a 10 year streak of critical and financial hits for Coppola and would force him to sell his 23-acre Zoetrope ranch. Coppola reportedly spent the rest of the 80’s working to pay off his debts until Zoetrope Studios filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1990. Coppola continued to work on a consistent basis throughout the 80s, but was never able to come close to matching his success from the 70’s.
After One From the Heart, Coppola bounced back a bit with The Outsiders. The film was a moderate success and introduced the world to Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, C. Thomas Howell, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane, and Tom Cruise. If you just asked yourself “Who is C. Thomas Howell?” . . . don’t worry about it. Although the film was not a classic in the same vein as The Godfather, it was evident Coppola still had quality pictures in him. Unfortunatly, he was unable to capitalize consistently on the momentum for the rest of the 80’s. Rumble Fish received average reviews and grossed $2 million dollars on a $10 million dollar budge, The Cotton Club received average reviews and grossed $25 million dollars on a $47 million dollar budget, Peggy Sue Got Married was his first financial hit since Apocolypse, Gardens of Stone was critically panned and grossed $5 million dollars and Tucker: The Man and Dream three Acadamey award nominations, but grossed just $19 million dollars. The problem was more than just low box-office receipts . . . Coppola had gone from making instant classics to forgettable movies . . .
After a recent viewing of 1989’s New York Stories, it is clear Coppola was no longer on par with his contemporaires 10 years after the release of Apocolypse Now. His filmmaking was on the verge of becoming silly. New York Stories consists of three different short films directed by Scorsese, Allen and Coppola. Coppola’s Life Without Zoe segement, sandwiched in the middle of the three short films, is by far the worse part of the film. Hal Hinson of The Washington Post wrote “It’s impossible to know what Francis Coppola’s Life Without Zoe is. Co-written with his daughter Sofia, the film is a mystifying embarrassment; it’s by far the director’s worst work yet.” Filmakers and actors are permitted to have cold streaks just as they are allowed to have years of creative bliss and financial success. The 80’s marked a difficult stretch for Coppola. The 90’s up to today are what I am angry about . . .
The 90’s started with Coppola by going back to larger scale films and reaching back into the 70’s . . . The Godfather III was a financial hit, but please do not tell me it is a worthy continuation of the Coleone story. Dracula was a star-studded vampire movie that was faithful to Bram Stoker’s vision, but it lies just outside of most top 10 lists of vampire films. Not a great achievement considering it is based on the mother of all vampire stories. Four years later Coppola brought us the unbelievably bad Jack starring Robin Williams. The film centering around a ten-year-old boy whose cells are growing at four times the normal rate. The film currently has a 17% on the Tomatoe Meter. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly ended his review of the film by noting, “it’s hard to shake the feeling that Coppola, who once made masterpieces, has now become a hack in an artist’s body.”
The Rainmaker would be the last film directed by Coppola in the 90’s. Coppola would direct the sixth John Grisham film following The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time To Kill and The Chamber. Coppola arguably made the most character driven picture of the Grisham films, but also the least suspenseful. The film was reviews positively by critics and was a sign Coppola was once again capable of quality filmmaking. Unfortunaley, there was about to be a massive step down.
Not including an uncredited role helping direct Supernova (which he should hope stays uncredited), Coppola’s last two films have grossed a total of just under $1 million dollars. Youth Without Youth was a critical disaster. In fact, try and find someone who has seen it. Tetro, starring Vincent Gallo, was received slightly better. The picture was filmed with a cheap look reserved for made for TV movies. Coppola’s tribute to film noir was shot on a $15 million dollar budget and made just over $500,000 in the U.S. after a limited release. Why a limited release? Why is the guy who directed The Godfather pictures making films that get a limited release? I know why . . . they are bad . . .
Coppola is a big proponent of independent films, but his pictures look as if they were shot by an amateur filmmaker. I’m not asking Coppola to hold his hands out and ask for big budget studio films. Woody Allen has proven on more than one occasion pictures shot on smaller budgets without special effects can resonate with audiences. I’m angry about the time that has passed since Apocalypse Now. Even the elusive Terrence Malick has managed to produce qualify films over the last 30 years that have been better than almost everything Coppola has done since 1980.
Next year, Coppola will release the awful looking Twixt. The film currently has a 38% on the Rotten Tomato Meter and wins my The Worst Trailer of 2011 (the new Hellraiser Straight-to-DVD sequel is probably second). Catherine Shoard of The Guardian writes, “People raised their hands in joy when Coppola announced he was returning to horror after his recent wobbly adventures in the arthouse. They’ll be begging him to reconsider – or perhaps just simply to stop – after seeing this.” The movie will certainly be another lemon in an overcrowded tree . Woody Allen has consistently proven a great filmmaker can bounce back when the switch is turned off . . . I’m just not sure Coppola’s even works anymore . . .
WATCH THE TRAILER FOR TWIXT
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Source : CMP Original