by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Citizen Koppola.

In the space of just eight years, Francis Ford Coppola wrote and/or directed four of the greatest films of all time (the first two Godfather films, Apocalypse Now and Patton). He also wrote an original screenplay for and directed a low-budget film which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes (The Conversation). The Conversation was also nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, but lost to a film directed by some guy named Francis Ford Coppola.

FFC was in his thirties when that streak ended. Since then (going on 31 years at press time) he's had to be content with some highly visible failures like One from the Heart and a few minor successes like The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, Godfather III, Dracula, Peggy Sue Got Married, and Tucker: the Man and His Dream. Those three decades seemed like a time when he was treading water while trying to assemble his still-unmade futuristic masterpiece Megalopolis. From time to time rumors floated East from California that something  was moving forward on Megalopolis. One great star or another was attached to it.  A massively long script was making the rounds. The film would run five hours. The film would cost $300 million; $500 million; whatever.

Coppola finally had to accept the fact that Megalopolis would never be more than a pipe dream because the risk/reward ratio can't be made acceptable to investors. But by the time he accepted that, he had become a rich man from a variety of sources inside and outside the world of cinema. He then came to the realization that his wealth equaled absolute movie-making freedom through the self-financing route. Oh, he could not finance Megalopolis or even some Godfather sequels out of his own pocket, but he could make a nearly limitless string of modest films like The Conversation. Indeed, if he's willing to consider the cost of his films as a write-off rather than an investment, he can do whatever the hell he pleases, critics be damned, investors be damned, box office be damned. Like the fictional Charles Foster Kane - "I think it would be fun to run a newspaper" - he can create anything he would actually enjoy creating.

So Coppola has turned to pet projects which he loves with the enthusiasm and passion of a young man, and he's making the kinds of films young men make when they have not yet learned the value of subtlety or the difference between drama and melodrama. That kind of fearless willingness to wear one's heart on one's sleeve, coupled with a disdain for compromises designed to perk up the box office, can produce some brilliant, personal films (Magnolia, e.g.) - the sorts of films that inspire as much passion as they exude. Such projects almost always lose money, of course, but what difference does that make to the very rich?

Two or three years ago, FFC made Youth Without Youth from an obscure novel by a Romanian theologian. Like a university student in an elderly body, Coppola dared to work outside the bounds of natural law to take on the big philosophical questions of existence, to deal with lost youth and might-have-beens. It's not an exceptionally good film, and yet, as I wrote at the time: "There is great filmmaking on display here. The problem is that Coppola just had no idea how to manage the rambling, internalized discourse on the many subjects Eliade had mastered in many languages, ranging from linguistics to metaphysics to the history of religion to the place of man in the universe. One cannot make a film about everything, or even all the things in that last sentence, so Coppola would have had to winnow all that down to a comprehensible and focused movie which allowed us to understand and empathize with the characters. It plays out just as you might expect - as a brilliant student film, except one made by a student who just happens to know more about filmmaking than any of his classmates or his professors." Or anyone else.

Tetro is more of the same. It's an epic-length black and white film, half in English and half in Spanish. It's about unbearable family secrets in the Darth Vader mold, but played out in Buenos Aires rather than in outer space. The context includes mental illness facilities, experimental theater productions, opera, classical dance, and symphonic music. It's filled with the release of long-suppressed emotions, sweeping panoramas of Patagonia, aesthetics, the pain of one's coming-of-age  ... you name it. It has a balletic dream sequence like the one in "Oklahoma!" in which dancers mirror and re-enact the characters' memories and fears. Like Coppola's previous film, it is distinctly uncommercial: Youth Without Youth had grossed a quarter of a million dollars on 18 screens; Tetro made it to 16 screens and raised the gross to $400,000 - on a budget of some $15 million.

Citizen Kane, like Citizen Koppola, lost money on his vanity projects. His response: so what? Coppola could echo Kane's exact words, adjusted only to put the cost in 2010 dollars: "You're right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars next year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I'll have to close this place  - in 60 years." Coppola doesn't need to stretch his fortune out for 60 years. He is 70 now. I assume he can keep making these intense, idiosyncratic, and sometimes overwrought films as long as he lives.

I hope he does.


3 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
68 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
65 Metacritic.com (of 100)






7.2 IMDB summary (of 10)







Box Office Mojo. Details incorporated into the main article to the left.





In addition to his other achievements, Coppola got some hot chicks topless, including:

  • Maribel Verdu no longer young and ripe and curvy, but with a face more beautiful than ever.
  • Sofia Castiglione and Leticia Bredice. Tremendous bodies on these women.

You go, grandpa!





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Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


Designed to appeal to a small arthouse audience.