period ofglittering success before the downturn came. With the critical and commercial bonanza of the two Godfather movies in the mid-Seventies. (‘oppola reached the point where he had sufficient funds to attempt to realise his dreams of owning his own independent studio. Thus. he inﬂated into a much larger operation the small production facility. named American Zoetrope after a pritnitive projection device. which he had set tip with (ieorge Lucas in ION). His finances were generously poured into the latest technological resources. and be set about signing a bulging roster of filmic talent (who. like
writer director .lohn Milius. were recruited largely from his film school , peers). His hope was to create a
refuge in dollar-conscioLis
Hollywood where high-quality commercial efforts and experimental l or personal production could happily ; exist side by side.
Yet. as in the 'l‘ucker case. financial ruin was to be the end result. ('oppola ran into funding problems during the protracted and difficult filming of his expansive Vietnam epic Apmalypse .\'ow. eventually losing much of his own share in the profits to secure the investors he needed to complete the l project. While much of the film‘s substantial box office grosses went elsewhere. the bearded celluloid visionary remained undeterred. and
launched into the musical One From The Heart back at Zo'etrope's San Francisco headquarters. At the same time the sound stages also hosted Wim Wenders‘ first American movie. the hard-boiled crime effort Hammett. which (‘oppola was producing. Both pictures boasted exactly the right ingredients for disaster. combining lavish studio settings that were to prove hugely expensive with confused shooting (and extensive re-shooting) periods that pushed the budgets even higher. In both instances. gorgeous visuals hardly compensated for a shambolic narrative. and the public stayed away in droves.
'l‘oday. there are estimates that (‘oppola personally remains somewhere in the region ofS ltlll million in debt from the Zoetrope experience. The liighties have largely seen him attempting to recover. First he attempted a duo of modest youth movies. Rumble Fish and The Outsiders. before he managed to whip up yet another financial headache with the chaotic and pricey ($47 million) jazz musical The ('otton ('lah. Eventually he found himself plying his trade as a hired hand on projects he did not
instigate. 'I’he time-travelling fantasy
Peggy Sue (iot .llarried was his most
substantial commercial bit in a while.
but he followed it with another. rather drab Vietnam movie Gardens
oI'Stone. which was more or less
ignored. Neither film seemed to show any real involvement beyond a desire to keep the creditors happy.
('oppola's perfectionist working methods perhaps offer a pointer to the basis of the problems he faced. 'l‘hroughout his varied filmography ('oppola has demonstrated an obsessive eye for nuance and detail that at times can bring forth the fully-conceived expressive richness of a Godfather. or his 1974 exercise in urban paranoia 'l'he ( ‘oni'ersatiim. which show hitn as one of the major American filmmakers. ()n other occasions. he can seem much too immersed in visual minutiae while leaving the major considerations of structure and pacing to look after themselves. hence the distracted and maddening folly on a vast scale that was One From The Heart. \Vhat makes the difference. so far its 'l'ta'ker is concerned. is that the technical fluidity of a great visual stylist is married to a concentrated narrative grip which has not always been present. and which here pays tribute to the influence of former collaborator (ieorge Lucas‘s return as Executive Producer.
With the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series Lucas has proved himselfone of the industry‘s most adept hands at putting together the kind ofskilled story recipes the public readily gobble up. However Howard The [)ll('/\'. a monstrous box office calamity. showed a certain loss |
oftouch. and his latest release ﬂ ll’illow continues to contribute to the j suspicion that he has. in fact. been playing safe for too long. As such. he might appear an unlikely partner for a wayward genius like ('oppola. but the personal and professional bond between the two goes back quite sometime.
In ION) Lucas was the young tyro with the lbmm camera who made his apprentice documentary Film-maker i by following (‘oppola with a lbmm camera during the shooting of the latter's first personal feature l‘he Rain l’eople. 'l‘hus a fruitful working relationship began to develop and the younger man was to become Vice-President of the new enterprise American Zoetrope later that year. 1 In 1970 (‘oppola went on to produce Lucas’s debut feature. the sci-fi fable 'I‘HX 1/38. and three years later. their second collaboration. popular rock ’n‘ roll nostalgia trip .-lmeriean (iral‘liti. was to combine with (‘oppola’s own project The Godfather in greatly swelling the Zoetrope coffers.
As the decade wore on however. a growing public rift appeared between the two men. instigated by ('oppola‘s starting work on Apocalypse .\'ow before Lucas had completed his low-budget space Western Star Wars. for the latter had originally conceived the huge Vietnam movie. and it was widely known to be a project he desperately wanted to direct.
By the early Eighties. with (‘oppola reduced to selling off his studio to a property developer ( he merely got to keep the name). and Lucas one of l lollywood's most prosperous sons. the pair must have seen miles apart. but their return to actively working together with the Lucas film production 'l'ta'ker has proved a most fortunate one. Lucas has been given the opportunity to bring his talents as a narrative organiser to bear on material of artistic rather than overtly commercial credibility. As far as (’oppola is concerned. the fulfilment ofa long-cherished project has been aided by a steady guiding hand to temper the sometimes self-destructive side-effects of his mannerist visual sensibility. Yet above all. the success of this unlikely but ultimately winning chronicle of an American idealist who remained unbowed despite the machinations of the moneymen. stands as a tribute to ( ‘oppola's own creative persistence and sheer love of making movies.
The words of Preston 'l‘uckcr resound with a certain appropriateness. ‘A man with a dream can't stop realising that dream any more than an artist can stop painting. or a composer composing. It’s no disgrace to fail against tough odds if you don‘t admit you're beaten. And if you don‘t give up.’
Tue/(er: The Man And His Dream opens at the ()deons in Glasgow and Edinburgh on Io December. and is reviewed in the Film Seetion this issue.
The List 9 — 23 December 1088 7