77th Cannes Film Festival – “Megalopolis”: Francis Ford Coppola risks everything again – culture


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45 years after winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival with “Apocalypse Now,” Francis Ford Coppola is back in competition. At 85, he risked everything again for his “Megalopolis”: his fortune and his reputation.

Adam Driver stands in the sunset on the edge of the top of the Chrysler Building in New York. He lifts one foot to step into the void, begins to fall – and commands time to stand still.

Time obeys.

Legend:

Actor Adam Driver takes the plunge into Francis Ford Coppola’s monumental film in the role of architect Cesar Catilina.

American Zoetrope

In “Megalopolis,” Adam Driver plays a visionary architect who wants to use his art to stop the decline of his city.

“Godfather” director Francis Ford Coppola has been preparing, postponing, and shelving his own hopefully visionary step into the void over the last 40 years, and shelved it after 9/11, when the traumatized city would not have tolerated any ambiguous accompanying sounds. He dug them up again five years ago.

Fall of a metropolis

“Megalopolis” is designed as a magnum opus, a clash of artistic freedom with pragmatism and a social utopia against the lust for power of individuals. And full of contradictions. The basic idea is a fusion of the lost ancient Rome with the American dream, which manifests itself in the city of New York.

Group of six people posing together.

Legend:

Photocall at the launch of “Megalopolis” in Cannes. From left to right: Giancarlo Esposito, Laurence Fishburne, Nathalie Emmanuel, director Francis Ford Coppola, Adam Driver and Aubrey Plaza.

Imago/Abacapress

Megalopolis is exactly that: a mega-city in which the artistic visionary Cesar opposes the pragmatic mayor Franklyn Cicero (Giancarlo Esposito from “Breaking Bad”).

Two people looking at the city at sunset.

Legend:

Of all people, Cesar pursues his visions against Mayor Cicero with his daughter. Together, Cesar and Julia Cicero (Nathalie Emmanuel from “Game of Thrones”) father a child who, if it becomes a boy, will one day be called Francis.

Festival de Cannes

Like the endless, disaster-plagued creation of “Apocalypse Now,” which Coppola himself later described as an insane undertaking, his “Megalopolis” plans were also written up and written down in the media.

Hubris and stubbornness of age, sexism on the set (like that British Guardian wrote), commercial uselessness, the solo effort of a washed-up star director.

Complex work of art

Because the film is actually not a streamlined entertainment ship with a digestible depth. He is an exuberant, shape-changing monster in which ingenious sequences with rhetorically over-the-top chatterboxes wind their way through the orgiastic flood of images of CGI streets and skyscrapers.

“Megalopolis” is a bastard of 130 years of cinematic art. Coppola borrows his architect Cesar from the libertarian thinker Ayn Rand (“The Fountainhead»), tons of ideas (and «Morpheus» actor Laurence Fishburn) in «The Matrix», and he quotes and evokes half the history of art and the whole of film history.

And Coppola, as before, uses old tricks and the latest technology without adhering to Hollywood standards and narrative rules: associative, meandering, sprawling, sometimes deliberately undisciplined.

Paradise garden of stubbornness – without cost coverage

The film is not a franchise concept suitable for the masses and will probably not even break even in many countries. But “Megalopolis” is a paradise garden of stubbornness, the pleasure-filled rapids ride of an old dream ship captain who, in his long career, has always defied everything and risked everything again and again.

Yes, “Megalopolis” is not a style-defining masterpiece like the first two “Godfather” films or “Apocalypse Now”. But definitely an opus magnum, the sum of all the ambitions of an artist who would rather reinvent himself again than finally give up.

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SRF 1, Tagesschau, May 17, 2024, 7:30 p.m.

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