Francis Ford Coppola: A Film-maker's Life Paperback – 6 Nov 2000
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Maverick director Francis Ford Coppola is a biographer's dream: in an industry dominated by those who play it safe, the director of the Godfather trilogy has always seemed larger than life. As Michael Schumacher shows, Coppola's reputation for "equal parts talent and bombast" is overshadowed only by his willingness to stake everything on projects in which he believes, sometimes with dire financial consequences. Yet throughout the catalogue of disasters and setbacks detailed in this comprehensive biography, Coppola has carried on making films, even if they have frequently confounded audience expectation.
Coppola's interest in film making began at an early age when, incapacitated by polio, he experimented with a 16mm projector and a tape recorder. He would later attend film school and work for legendary producer Roger Corman, gaining invaluable training from the master of low-budget genre pictures. In many ways Coppola was a trailblazer, graduating to feature films earlier than the fellow film students--George Lucas and Steven Spielberg among them--alongside whom he would later form the New Hollywood. In its most entertaining chapters, Schumacher's impeccably researched book follows Coppola as he enjoys the incredible success of The Godfather, survives the madness of the notorious Apocalypse Now shoot in the Philippines, then spirals rapidly into debt after the disaster that was One From The Heart. Since this spectacular failure in the early 1980s, Coppola has never quite delivered a masterpiece, offering only fleeting glimpses of his idiosyncratic talent. But even in his failures, Schumacher depicts Coppola as a fiercely creative and independent figure struggling against the might of corporate Hollywood. It is a testament to the writer's devotion to his subject that on finishing the biography we are left with an unshakeable feeling that a return to form must surely be imminent. --John Oates
Top Customer Reviews
But anyway, for an insight into the arc of Coppola's career and personality this seems to be a fine read. The best stuff comes with the best films, or at least the biggest ones: The Godfathers and Apocalypse Now are covered in fine and page-turning detail and you come out feeling for the man and the struggles he went through to get the films made. The subsequent decline in fortunes is also well-covered, but the author is faced with the problems of keeping it interesting when Coppola descends into being just a jobbing director towards the end of the book.
My biggest problem is the inclusion of detailed plot synopsis of each film, instead of any kind of analysis - these artist biographies usually make me want to go and re-watch their films, and indeed I did catch up on his early films I'd missed as a result, BUT I had to learn to WATCH OUT FOR THOSE PARAGRAPHS WHERE THE WHOLE FILM PLOT IS REPRODUCED.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This book, like no other I have read, reflects the passion, energy and chaos of the Coppola world. I can tell you from the inside there is no more exciting experience than being part of the Coppola energy. Francis loves to tackle the "impossible" and never gives up. I particularly like this book because it is clear that the author, like myself, has great respect for this whirlwind of a man.
In 1939 the director was born to Carmen Coppola and his wife
Italia. His parents were creative-Carmen was a musician in the
Detroit Symphony and later in the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Arturo Toscanini. Carmen would later win a musical
Oscar for the Godfather films.
Francis was a younger son to his older brother who was everything Francis wasn't: handsome and well liked at school.
His sister Talia Shire would later be a movie star in his own
films most notably the Godfather classics.
Coppola graduated from Hofstra and received a master's degree
in film from the UCLA film school. His early apprenticship in
film was under the tutelage of famed B director Roger Corman.
Coppolla emerged from nudie films and small pictures to direct
"Finigan's Rainbow" and began to emerge as a talented maverick
whose creative/artistic wings were flying in the early 1970s.
Despite arduous business and creative troubles he won fame and fortune and several Oscars for the Godfather films. His most
controversial film was "Apocalypse Now" his take on the Vietnam
conflict based on Joseph Conrad's novella "The Heart of Darkness."
Coppola's career has more ups and downs than a roller coaster
as he founded Zoetrope Films in San Francisco and went to the
mat in countless donybrook battles with studio executives.
Coppola reminds me of Orson Welles in that he achieved fame early and then had a difficult career in tinsel town. He is a
man of massive ego; intelligence; daring and creative attention
to the details/minutia of film. He was unfaithful to his wife
Ellie; grieved over a son yet emerges from this biography as a
flawed but good man. He is gregarious and honest and a good
friend. His friendship assisted George Lucas in launching his
storied career! I like Coppola's rich textured films. His screenwriting from Patton to his latest project is outstanding.
This meticulous account of Coppola's career in the Hollywood jungle will not appeal to everyone. Countless pages are devoted to business deals, legal disputes and the difficulties encountered by Coppola in making his films.
For me who loves the Godfather and FFC this is a fine book.
Anyone who seeks to explore this brilliant man's career would do
well to begin with Schumacher's fine biograpy.
See you at the Oscars.