Francis Ford Coppola seemingly has it all: untold wealth, a shelf full of Oscars, a glittering film career and a hugely successful wine business. Everything, I think, except the respect of his peers and audiences for what he's done in the past 10 years or so.
The creative genius behind The Godfather, Apocalypse Now and The Conversation has directed only two movies since 1997: The Rainmaker and 2007's Youth Without Youth, a dismal failure.
As executive producer, his recent track record is spotty, at best, with such efforts as The Good Shepherd, Lost in Translation, Kinsey, Marie Antoinette and Jeepers Creepers. So I think it's fair to say the 70-year-old filmmaker will be hoping to regain the respect of the industry, audiences and critics when his latest film, Tetro, opens the Director's Fortnight sidebar at the Cannes festival on May 14.
The self-financed movie, which stars Vincent Gallo, newcomer Alden Ehrenreich and Carmen Maura, is his first original screenplay since 1974's The Conversation. An intimate family drama set in Argentina, it tells of the bittersweet reunion of two brothers and the secrets surrounding their relationship. Although fictional, the story has its origins in memories and emotions of Coppola's early life. “I set it in Argentina so people wouldn't know,” he joked when asked about the film's setting.
The posting of the trailer has sparked a lively debate on numerous websites, with opinions strongly divided between the optimists (“I really hope this turns out to be considered \'worthy\', so his career isn\'t remembered for fizzing out in the later years”) and the not-so-sure (“looks weird, dysfunctional family looks boring, bisexual threesome is ok, car crash is awesome.”)
From my online research, it appears Rope of Silicon's Brad Brevet is the only critic who's seen the film, and he really liked it. He raved about Ehrenreich, saying he reminded him of a “Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Pitt and Emile Hirsch all wrapped in one.” That's a very big call, Brad.
According to IMDB.com, Coppola decided to shoot Tetro in a similar style to 1983's Rumble Fish: in black-and-white, with occasional bursts of colour, since both films evidently have a spiritual connection.
He has said, “Tetro is more my Tennessee Williams drama of my own life. Not autobiographical, but certainly themes that were present in my own life.” And maybe there's a message in the trailer, which refers to a character who's “a genius without many accomplishments.
Some Coppola-watchers believe his winery made him so rich that it softened the edge of his ambition as a filmmaker. And there's a theory that early success and adulation spoilt him: he was only 30 when he started shooting The Godfather.
His company American Zoetrope will release Tetro in the US in June. There's no Australian release date yet. If it plays well in Cannes, let's hope an Aussie distributor nabs the rights.