Francis Ford Coppola (#110 of 26)

Marrakech International Film Festival 2015 Francis Ford Coppola’s "Landmark Decision"

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Marrakech International Film Festival 2015: Francis Ford Coppola’s “Landmark Decision”

Kabreet Productions

Marrakech International Film Festival 2015: Francis Ford Coppola’s “Landmark Decision”

In Apocalypse Now, as Willard and his crew make their way up the Nung River, the captain learns that Kurtz, his main target, previously staged a successful, but unofficial, operation called Archangel. Instead of being nailed “to the floorboards” for insubordination, Kurtz was promoted to full colonel “after the press got hold of it.” To these events, Willard concludes: “The bullshit piled up so fast in Vietnam, you needed wings to stay above it.” I’ve reached a similar conclusion about the awards ceremony for the 15th Marrakech International Film Festival, which ended on December 12, where Francis Ford Coppola served as jury president for the festival’s main competition. In short, when it came time to award the jury prize, Coppola announced a “split decision”: The prize was going to “cinema itself” and, thus, every film in competition.

Marrakech International Film Festival 2015 Neon Bull, Steel Flower, Paradise, & More

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Marrakech International Film Festival 2015: Neon Bull, Steel Flower, Paradise, & More

Kino Lorber

Marrakech International Film Festival 2015: Neon Bull, Steel Flower, Paradise, & More

Inside the Palais des Congrès on opening night, the 15th Marrakech International Film Festival thrums with subdued, but still palpable, anticipation as the members of the jury, including its president, Francis Ford Coppola, take the stage one by one and announce the festival’s opening—each member in their own native tongue. The moment bespeaks the festival’s aims as a cultural event, bringing first and second films from promising directors across the globe into the same space for a 15-film competition.

At a press conference the next morning, a question about the lack of female filmmakers in competition (only one) sparked a string of responses to questions of equality among the field. Jury member Olga Kurylenko took issue with the remark, saying that “the films [here] have been chosen for a reason and the outcome is just a coincidence.” The irony is that the festival’s first two films, Steel Flower and Paradise, though directed by men, feature a distraught female protagonist in nearly every single scene. Thus, while female filmmakers might be in short supply, female subjects initially seem common.

The 10 Greatest Vampire Movies

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The 10 Greatest Vampire Movies
The 10 Greatest Vampire Movies

From Bram Stoker to Anne Rice, from Nosferatu to Buffy, it’s safe to say our cultural fascination with the blood-sucking undead isn’t going away anytime soon. Not unlike zombies, those other revivified metaphors that feast on the living, the template afforded by these folkloric beings allows for no shortage of insights into the human condition, with the topics of sexuality, addiction, and mortality chief among them. By far the most famous of these, Dracula, is often cited as the most popular fictional character in all of cinema, with nearly 200 separate film appearances according to IMDb. Of course, the legend of these creatures extends far beyond just this particular icon, and those who are quick to mock the Twilight franchise for allowing its fanged characters to appear in full sunlight, unperturbed, are clearly unaware of the elasticity they’ve exhibited throughout both print and film history. Here, a fairly strict definition of the corporeal undead has been employed (apologies to Louis Feuillade and Claire Denis). These 10 films highlight not just great vampire films, but great films, period, and for each that made the cut, there was at least one more vying for inclusion.

Top 10 Greatest Car Movies

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Top 10 Greatest Car Movies
Top 10 Greatest Car Movies

Cars, it’s often been observed, offer a sort of contradiction of motion: They allow us to move around while sitting still. It only makes sense, then, that the movies have for so long been attracted to the allure of the automobile, for surely the appeal of the cinema lies in its capacity to take us from the comfort of the theater or living room to adventures around the world. The greatest car movies—movies about cars, largely set in cars, or otherwise significantly concerned with them—understand that our affection for our vehicles has as much to do with the possible freedoms they promise as the routines they let us uphold. Cars drive us to and from work every day, keeping our lives precisely ordered. But they also suggest escape: We’re always aware, faintly, that we could drive away from it all at any moment, out and off toward some new life’s horizon. Car movies remind us of the power in that possibility—of all the things that can happen when we turn the key.

Summer of ‘88: Tucker: The Man and His Dream

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Summer of ‘88: <em>Tucker: The Man and His Dream</em>
Summer of ‘88: <em>Tucker: The Man and His Dream</em>

As you’ve no doubt noticed from the last few entries in this series, the waning days of 1988’s summer didn’t feel quite like the blockbuster season we now see extending all the way up to September. Opening on August 12, 1988, Francis Ford Coppola’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream was the kind of prestige project you’d more likely associate with awards season. For Coppola, it is among his most personal films, not only because it spent the longest time in gestation, but because it’s the closest the filmmaker has ever come to a confessional about the professional betrayals he’d contended with in his career, and the virtues and flaws of mounting a creative collaboration.

As Coppola recounts in the DVD commentary, he had been fascinated with Tucker ever since childhood, when his father had invested in the iconoclast’s auto company. Coppola had conceived of a Tucker musical biopic while still in film school at UCLA. His initial vision was as ambitious as Tucker’s was for his automobile. In the years after the Godfather films, Coppola had attained sufficient clout, enough to invite Gene Kelly to choreograph, and to offer the lead role to actors like Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, and even Burt Reynolds. Coppola wanted composer Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story) to score, with Singin’ in the Rain’s Betty Comden and Adolph Green writing the lyrics, and the collaboration produced at least one song. But this iteration of Tucker was ultimately scrapped after the failure of Coppola’s experimental One from the Heart (1982).

Jurassic Park as a Means of Discussing Fractals, Chaos Theory, and Scary Movies

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Jurassic Park as a Means of Discussing Fractals, Chaos Theory, and Scary Movies
Jurassic Park as a Means of Discussing Fractals, Chaos Theory, and Scary Movies

With the arrival of the 20th anniversary, 3D re-release of Jurassic Park, what I’d like to convince you of is that the film watered down, significantly, the soul of the novel from which it was based (and we’re talking about a Michael Crichton page-turner for Christ’s sake). Instead of being the kind of decadent, lost-in-the-jungle, labyrinthine cinematic fever dream it could’ve been—one in which the production of the film would’ve eerily re-enacted and factually re-performed the hallucinatory chaos of what it was trying to fictionally record (a la Coppola’s Apocalypse Now or Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, and their respective making-of docs, Hearts of Darkness and Burden of Dreams), Spielberg’s Jurassic Park instead played it safe, and did so in a way that was slick, corporate, and patronizing to its audience. And one of the ways it punted artistically was to almost entirely purge from Crichton’s novel its heavy theorizing about chaos theory and fractals, which, in those days (the late ’80s/early ’90s), had just made its way into the intellectual mainstream. I’d like to briefly make the point that this was a grievous mistake (for the movie), because chaos theory and fractals have everything to do with scary movies, and horror and terror and the kind of man-eating monstrosities Spielberg and his team put so much goddamned time and money into making look realistic.