April Filmmaker of the Month: Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola Francis Ford Coppola

We examine the game changing highs and ambitious lows of Francis Ford Coppola’s six decade career.

For Francis Ford Coppola, every film he makes is a sweeping epic, often ending with the protagonist world weary and broken, the sole survivor of a hundred fateful decisions. Often these decisions come from good intentions: Michael Corleone to protect his family’s interests, Captain Willard in service to his country, The Cotton Club‘s Dixie Dwyer because he’s in love. We see early on that the choices they make are not going to end well, but the journey to get to those various gut punches and lonely defeats are so absorbing and immersive that we’re willing to see it through.

Even the smaller, less Coppola-like movies, such as The Outsiders, Rumble Fish and Peggy Sue Got Married, are set in wonderfully tangible universes, where we’re not watching a film so much as stepping through a portal into another time, where every detail, right down to the cracked leather of Matt Dillon’s greaser jacket, is note perfect. Whatever one may think of Coppola’s filmography as a whole, it would be disingenuous to describe him as a lazy filmmaker. Even his notorious flops, like the aforementioned The Cotton Club and One From the Heart, were crafted with care and a loving eye for style, place and setting.

And then there’s Jack. We’ll get to that eventually.

Similar to the previously covered Joel Schumacher (though obviously with a far better hit to miss ratio) Coppola is also a filmmaker who’s never been afraid to try his luck at different genres, despite varying results. He’s tried horror (Dementia-13, the sumptuous Bram Stoker’s Dracula), “war is hell” dramas (Apocalypse Now, Gardens of Stone), teen dramas (The Outsiders, Rumble Fish), fantasy/sci-fi (Captain Eo, Youth Without Youth), thrillers (The Conversation), and even a musical (One From the Heart). Even the failures are interesting failures, often victims of bloated budgets and clashing egos rather than poor filmmaking.

But also, there’s Jack. Look, we can’t not talk about it.

Though we simply don’t have the bandwidth to give all of Coppola’s films the attention they deserve, we hope to offer you fresh perspectives on a filmography that is more consistently solid than that of his counterparts George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, but lacks the same devoted fanbase. It stands as a reminder that he’s more than just Sofia’s dad.

Plus, he made Jack. But nobody’s perfect.

Read the rest of our Francis Ford Coppola coverage below:

“Godfather” I & II – the greatest of Hollywood’s myths

“The Conversation” is the best of a Coppola hot streak

In “Apocalypse Now,” Coppola’s souls turn away in the fog of war

Inside the ambitious failure of Coppola’s “One from the Heart”

“The Outsiders” is a loving portrayal of young male vulnerability

“Rumble Fish” is Coppola’s bleak, beautiful ode to hero worship

The rise, fall, and improbable return of “The Cotton Club”

“Captain EO” is a Space Oddity in Coppola’s oddest decade

“Peggy Sue Got Married” finds the humanistic in time travel

‘Tucker: The Man and His Dream’ is as much about Coppola as it is Tucker

In defense of Coppola’s polarizing take on “Dracula”

The meant-to-be heartwarming “Jack” is a grotesque misfire

In “The Rainmaker”, Coppola directs young Damon masterfully

In “Youth Without Youth”, Coppola delves into mystic linguistics

The underrated “Tetro” reflects Coppola’s empathetic side

“Twixt” runs red with the blood of Coppola’s messy ambitions

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