“Why do films always have to be this way for me? Why do I always have to reach down into my gut, and pull my intestines out on to the table and chop at them in full view of the rest of humanity? Why can’t I just make an ordinary film the way I know lots of directors do?”— Francis Ford Coppola, a few days before deciding that the making of Apocalypse Now would “run like clockwork”
“We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane”— Francis Ford Coppola, at the Cannes Film Festival press conference for Apocalypse Now
This August brings Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now back to the big screen. Apocalypse Now: Final Cut is a 4K restoration with state-of-the-art sound. For a film experience that was already like IMAX before anyone knew what IMAX was… Yeah, this is a big deal. After all, we’re talking about a seminal work of American art which scholars of the future will reference when discussing the fall of the American Empire.
1969: U.S. military assassin Capt. Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen) is heading up the Nùng river on a top-secret mission to kill renegade Green Beret colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Col. Kurtz, from a compound in Cambodia, commands his own personal army of Montagnard troops who revere him as a demigod, enabling him to fight the war “his way.” On the journey to confront Kurtz, Willard and the crew of his patrol boat (Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall, Sam Bottoms, Laurence Fishburne) have a series of encounters, each a tableau of the insanity and horror men create in the world.
An iconic vision of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now also draws inspiration from Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972). It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival.
Nominated for Eight Academy Awards
- Best Picture
- Best Director (Francis Ford Coppola)
- Best Supporting Actor (Robert Duvall)
- Best Adapted Screenplay (John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola)
- WINNER: Best Sound (Walter Murch, Mark Berger, Richard Beggs, and Nat Boxer)
- Best Art Direction (Dean Tavoularis, Angelo P. Graham, George R. Nelson)
- WINNER: Best Cinematography (Vittorio Storaro)
- Best Film Editing (Richard Marks, Walter Murch, Gerald B. Greenberg and Lisa Fruchtman)
August is Francis Ford Coppola Month at The Frida Cinema!
The Godfather (1972: August 1st – 4th)
Perhaps the film that defined the “New Hollywood” era of the 1970s, The Godfather nearly didn’t get made at all. Paramount did not want Coppola, fresh off the box office failures The Rain People (1969) and THX-1138 (1971), to direct. They fought Coppola and studio exec Robert Evans over the casting of the two leads Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. Despite the odds, Coppola delivered a masterful story of the transition of family power from one generation to the next, as well as a compelling statement on American capitalism.
The Godfather received nine Academy Award nominations, winning three: Best Picture, Best Actor (Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Coppola and Mario Puzo, based on his novel).
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992: August 2nd – 3rd)
When the industry-standard visual effects team Coppola hired informed him that his vision for Bram Stoker’s Dracula would be impossible to achieve without computer-generated imagery, he fired them. The resulting film is a visual feast, created with old-school techniques dating back to the beginning of cinema itself. In casting Gary Oldman as the titular vampire, Coppola manages, as he did with the Godfather films, to persuade his audience to feel genuine empathy for a character who is essentially evil.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a major success upon its release. It won the Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, Best Sound Editing (Dracula’s brides are a sonic Easter egg for Diamanda Galás fans), and Best Makeup.
The Outsiders (1983: August 7th – 11th)
Coppola adapted S.E. Hinton’s coming-of-age novel The Outsiders when he received a request from an elementary school librarian. The film he delivered portrays teenagers in a more naturalistic style than most youth-focused films had not previously done.
Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell) and Johnny (Ralph Macchio), two young “Greasers” in 1960s Tulsa, Oklahoma are on the run after an attack by a gang of rival “Socs” ends with someone dead.
The Outsiders features a large ensemble cast comprised of many young actors whose work here led them to success: Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane and Emilio Estevez.
Rumble Fish (1983: August 14th – 18th)
Based upon another S.E. Hinton novel and filmed back-to-back with The Outsiders—also set in Tulsa—and featuring both Matt Dillon and Diane Lane, Rumble Fish‘s similarities to its predecessor end there. Coppola creates, in his words, an “art film for teenagers” with an avant-garde style, filmed in high-contrast black-and-white, evocative of both the French New Wave and the experimental cinema of Maya Deren.
Against the backdrop of surreal speeding clouds and a heady Stewart Copeland score, Prone-to-violence Rusty (Dillon) is headed for the Pacific Ocean, but not before getting into a lot of trouble.
On its release, easily-confused American audiences weren’t quite sure if they liked Rumble Fish, or why they liked it. As with The Outsiders, the film has a diverse group of young actors, including Mickey Rourke; Nicholas Cage; and Vincent Spano, along with recurring Coppola players Tom Waits and Dennis Hopper.
The Godfather Part II (1974: August 25th – 29th)
Rarely does a sequel surpass the original, but The Godfather Part II arguably does just that. The film is both a sequel and a prequel—with Coppola and Puzo telling two stories side-by-side.
Michael (Al Pacino), the now ruthless head of the Corleone crime family, seeks to expose a traitor in his organization, which increasingly resembles any other American corporation. Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg), the old-school Jewish gangster with whom Michael has entered into a precarious business arrangement, tells him “We’re bigger than U.S. Steel.”
The tale of Michael’s immigrant father Vito (Robert De Niro) and his rise to power unfolds parallel to the film’s contemporary events.
Nominated for nine Academy Awards, The Godfather Part II won five: Best Picture, Best Director (Coppola), Best Supporting Actor (De Niro), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Art Direction.