“What the studios want now is ‘risk-free’ films, but with any sort of art, you have to take risks. Not taking risks in art is like not having sex and then expecting there to be children.”
Francis Ford Coppola was a man who took risks with his films. Some of these paid off in a huge way. The Godfather and its sequels basically defined the crime genre and became hugely successful, but there was no precedent for this success. Later, Coppola would take greater risks, some successes and some not. He produced some of the greatest films of all time, but some of his other works were huge flops. He even said of himself, “I probably have genius, but no talent.” That’s alright, because when he hits, he hits hard.
Coppola specializes in modern-day epics. He covers professional criminals and soldiers with the grandiosity and respect of great heroes of myth and history, and his epic heroes want to change the world around them even against all odds. He’s also able to present complex and even questionable morality in a way that feels real and natural, keeping these grandiose characters firmly grounded in reality. It’s an amazing mix, and his hit films maintain this balance expertly.
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“I try to just make what I want to make or what I would want to see. I try not to think about the audience too much.”
What does a director do to escape the shadow of her father who directed The Godfather? Her own thing. Sofia Coppola (1971-) is known for her art house films that delve into characters and emotions like no others. Her films, while brilliant, are admittedly not for everyone. And that’s alright, because films for everyone rarely reach as deep into emotions as hers do. She’s doing her own thing, and that means she’s making movies quite unlike anybody else is.
As I said, she’s the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. She grew up on movie sets and actually appears in all three Godfather movies, including her infamous role in the third that helped steer her toward writing and directing and away from acting (which she admittedly never wanted to do). She gets the film medium and uses it to tell amazing stories that aren’t being told by anyone else.
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“I grew up in the heat of 70s postmodern fiction and post-Godard films, and there was this idea that what mattered was the theory or meta in art. My film is emotional rather than meta, and that’s my rebellion.”
Art house filmmaker and native New Yorker Noah Baumbach (1969-) is a master at capturing raw humanity on film. His work is highly autobiographical and portrays complex emotions that defy straightforward explanations and labels. And the emotions are not merely a sideline element—for most of his work, those complex emotions are the statement. You’re meant to feel what the characters are feeling, even if you don’t know what it all means or where it’s going.
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