Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Kind of Director I Would Die to Work With

Those of you out there who are cinephiles probably already know this, but there's a new edition of Apocalypse Now out. The Three-Disk "Full Disclosure Edition," Which includes the original 1979 cut, the 49 minute longer Apocalypse Now Redux from 2001, and the absolutely essential, completely brilliant documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. This is the first time all of this material has been presented together, and the first time the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. (Francis Coppola and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro personally created a 2.20:1 version for home video)

This is the first time to see the full 70mm scope image at home. I've never seen Apocalypse Now projected, so this is the first opportunity to see the full image, for me.

Long story short, I NEED to order this. I'd figured to put it off, but the reviews I'm reading as so very glowing, and the package is so lovingly created...Now that it's streeted, I'm wondering why I didn't pre-order.Stupid.

Francis Ford Coppola is one of those filmmakers that I admire so very, very much. It's not just for the films, themselves, but also from watching behind-the-scenes footage. Hearts of Darkness, which is based on footage shot by his wife Elanor while they were in the Philippines shooting Apocalypse Now, is a portrait of an artist under siege, yet, through it all you admire the tenacity, and vision of the man. He knew what he wanted and he went after it, no matter what the cost, financial, physical or mental.

Of course, Apocalypse Now was a worst-case scenario. Although, Coppola has a habit of over-extending himself, with audacious productions and attempts to turn his American Zoetrope company into a full-fledged movie studio. His motto, which I'll paraphrase here is, seems to be, "I don't have a lot of money, but if I use it audaciously, I can make it seem like more money."

Not that Coppola hasn't had money. He became a multi-millionaire by making The Godfather and it's sequels. The first two films in that series are widely considered among the greatest movies ever made, The Godfather is #3 on the AFI's 100 Years, 100 movies list, and moved up to #2 on the 10-year anniversary of that list. Of course, since then, in the process of trying to get American Zoetrope off the ground, and self-financing movies to maintain creative control, he's gone bankrupt several times.

Coppola operates on a level that seems beyond these monetary concerns. It's driven partners, like George Lucas, who was a co-founder in the late 60's, and directed THX-1138 for the company, crazy, but not one of these people ever speaks of Francis with anything less than respect. Lucas and Coppola are still close friends, for example. Coppola seems driven by artistic concerns, no matter what the cost, in fact, he seems almost oblivious to the cost.

But therein lies the genius. Therein lies the reason why I would die to be directed by this man. He comes from a theatre background, and embraces things like rehearsal. I love watching footage of him working with the Godfather or Apocalypse casts, in a room, hashing out scenes. mixing and matching parts for casting purposes. He seems to respect and nurture actors, while being able to give a clear vision of what the ultimate goal is. It's why, I feel, his films all seem so unified in tone and style, while allowing the casts to grab their moments to shine and really reveal parts of their characters. It almost seems (admittedly from the outside) that Coppola starts with insisting that his actors take ownership of their characters, and then molds from what they give him.

I love it.

On top of this...just look at the man's filmography.

If he'd only made The Godfather, his place in film history would be assured. Let me offer a few of my favorites;

The Godfather

 Nothing but genius here. If you haven't seen this series, you are in desperate need of a screening. A must-see for anyone who considers themselves a "movie fan." Even the third, while not as good as the first or second, is far better than most movies you will see, and provides a satisfying ending to the tale of Michael Corleone.

The Conversation

A horror movie the likes of which we hardly ever see. Possibly the single greatest performance Gene Hackman ever gave on film. Watch as Harry Caul comes apart at the seams, all because of the fears and paranoia within himself.

One From the Heart

A fairly bizzare, yet intensely beautiful film. Basically the project that brought down American Zoetrope. The Tom Waits songs are haunting and incredible.

Apocalypse Now

Genius and insanity all rolled into one. A stunning film experience, at once totally removed from the reality of Vietnam, yet...possibly the only time anyone has ever tried to put what it felt like to be there on film.

Tucker: A Man and His Dream

Beautiful, brilliant, heartfelt. Sheer perfection on screen, highly theatrical and cinematic all at the same time. A criminally overlooked Jeff Bridges performance. This is MY favorite Coppola film, and I absolutely implore you to seek it out, because it's so very rewarding. A bit cornball, but so was Preston Tucker.

They're all great, in one way or another. They're all worth seeing, and, even if some of these aren't without flaws, they're all great bits of American cinema history. All made by one great filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola.

Really, see Tucker. Please. It was made for Gio, who loved cars.

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