Saturday, October 20, 2007

YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH, First Francis Ford Coppola Film in a Decade Premiers

Francis Coppola's "Youth Without Youth" a genre-bending film starring Tim Roth, the director's first in 10 years, premiered at the Rome Film Festival today.

Variety's mixed review is here: http://www.variety.com/VE1117935147.html

Based on a novella by Romanian philosopher-author Mircea Eliade, and co-starring Bruno Ganz (Werner Herzog stalwart and recent star of DOWNFALL, biopic of the last days of the Nazi leader) and Matt Damon, YWY focuses on an elderly academic contemplating suicide who is struck by lighting and regains his youth, and is pursued by Nazi's seeking to learn his secret.

In recent intreviews, Copppola commented how he made this film as a relatively low budget project with a small mobile crew, as a means of re-examing his own youthful creativity. Coppola turned to commercial blockbusters like the Godfather trilogy as a means of financing his smaller personal projects such as The Conversation. But the director managed to bring so much art and creativity to these huge commercial film projects that they helped establish his reputation among the group of 70s filmmakers such as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese who presented a strong alternative to the traditional Hollywood studio system.

In an interview at the Rome film festival, Coppola says he has a lot in common with Dominic Matei, the protagonist of his first film in 10 years, "Youth Without Youth".

Coppola told Yahoo.com:

That may sound surprising coming from the Oscar-winning maker of "Apocalypse Now" and "The Godfather" trilogy, since Matei is an elderly Romanian linguistics professor who feels he has wasted his life, lost the woman he loved and failed to produce a great academic work. Just before the outbreak of World War Two, Matei -- played by British actor Tim Roth -- is struck by lightning and becomes young again, getting a second chance to fulfil his dreams.

In the production notes, Coppola says that when he came across the book on which the film is based, he was, a bit like its main character, "beginning to feel at the end of the road", frustrated by his inability to finish the screenplay for his long-cherished utopia project "Megalopolis".
"I was trying to write and find myself as a writer and find my place in the movie business, because I did not want to be kind of an entertainment director as I had been, I wanted to be someone who did only personal films," Coppola, 68, told reporters after a press screening of the new film.

"I never as a young man expected to have the kind of success which came ultimately from the Godfather and I always was nostalgic (...)

"It was only later when I was older that I thought, well, if I had the life of an older director when I was young, maybe I can have the life of a younger director when I am old and that took me to the subject matter of Mircea Eliade's book," he said.

Coppola financed the film with his own Californian winery business and went to shoot in Romania as if "I was making a student film", with an almost entirely local cast and crew and a specially fitted van to carry all the equipment.

The result is a complex, elaborate story mixing the ingredients of a spy thriller, including mad Nazi scientists studying genetic mutations, with philosophical meditations on time, language and reincarnation.

Critics' reaction at Saturday's press screening was muted, with some feeling the film was erratic and over ambitious.

But Coppola, who after his early triumphs has had his fair share of flops -- in the 1980s his production company was taken over by creditors -- said artists should never worry about the public's knee-jerk reaction to their works.

"When you venture into new territory, when you embrace an author like Eliade you know that it is different than 'Spider Man' and 'Shrek' and other films that are immediately met with success," he said.
"It takes time for the public to decide whether it was good or bad. Are you aware that for a film like, for example, 'Apocalypse Now' they are only making up their mind now?" Asked whether he would consider revisiting his 1970s classics or making "The Godfather IV", Coppola categorically ruled that out. "I don't know why I would ever want to do that, I never wanted to make more than Godfather one ... I feel any remake is a waste of energy and resources."

Youth Without Youth will open in New York City on December 14. A reprint of the Eliade novella also will be released shortly.

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