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Coppola's epic 'Megalopolis' finally arrives at Cannes

By AFP

May 16, 2024 10:46 AM


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Another masterpiece emerging from chaos, or just a chaotic mess? One of Hollywood's most mythologised directors, Francis Ford Coppola, returns Thursday to the Cannes Film Festival with the almost impossibly hyped "Megalopolis".

He has been in this position before, 45 years ago, when the shoot for "Apocalypse Now" turned into now-legendary mayhem and looked destined for disaster.

Instead, it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, became one of the most celebrated films of all time and burnished the reputation Coppola had made with "The Godfather".

Will history repeat itself as Coppola, 85, returns to the French Cote d'Azur to premiere "Megalopolis", a $120-million project he self-funded by selling part of his California wine estate and which has been gestating for some 40 years?

It is billed as an Ancient Roman epic transplanted to modern-day America with Adam Driver as a visionary architect seeking to rebuild a crumbling city.

The trailer's portentous voiceover intones: "When does an empire die? Does it collapse in one terrible moment? No, no, but there comes a time when its people no longer believe in it."

Coppola -- who also won a Palme d'Or in 1974 for "The Conversation" -- shows no worries that his own imperial reputation is crumbling.

In a statement to Vanity Fair, he gave a list of 40-plus influences for the film that included Voltaire, Plato, Shakespeare, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Kurosawa, "Moses, and the prophets all thrown in".

But tales of crew walkouts and complaints over Coppola's maniacal behaviour -- as well as worried reactions from Hollywood execs over the final results -- are already legion.

The cast includes Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf and Dustin Hoffman, but the film has been in production so long that some actors who read for roles are long dead, including Paul Newman and James Gandolfini.

"I wanted to make a film about a human expression of what really is heaven on Earth," Coppola said at the Lumiere Festival back in 2019. "I would say it's the most ambitious film (I've worked on) -– more than 'Apocalypse Now'."

Although Coppola has created several duds since his 1970s heyday, many still believe in his genius.

"Cannes is important to him and he is important to Cannes. He comes as an artist," said festival head Thierry Fremaux.

Veteran US movie journalist Tim Gray told AFP: "As a filmmaker and as a showman, Coppola has always swung for the fences... he's defied career logic."

"Megalopolis" is one of 22 films competing for the Palme d'Or, facing a jury led by "Barbie" director Greta Gerwig.

Other entries include a Donald Trump biopic, "The Apprentice", and new films from arthouse favourites David Cronenberg ("The Shrouds"), Italy's Paolo Sorrentino ("Parthenope"), as well as "Emilia Perez", an unlikely sounding musical about a Mexican cartel boss having a sex change from French Palme d'Or-winner Jacques Audiard.

The festival concludes with the awards ceremony on May 25.


AFP


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