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HomeBollywoodFrancis Coppola Megalopolis Cannes Friday May 17 Competition Slot

Francis Coppola Megalopolis Cannes Friday May 17 Competition Slot

EXCLUSIVE: After a feverish courtship of Francis Coppola between the organizers of the Cannes, Venice and Toronto Film festivals, Megalopolis has been locked into a gala premiere slot on the Palais on Friday evening May 17, I’m told. The film will premiere in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival.

Cannes chief Thierry Fremaux wins the day on this one, on the eve of a full festival slate announcement Thursday. It comes shortly after a movie concept that had been eating at Coppola for 20 years was shown to buyers for the first time at the Universal CityWalk IMAX Theater on March 28. Coppola’s longtime attorney Barry Hirsch is still in talks to secure a distribution partner, for a film that will reach audiences in the fall, with an emphasis on IMAX theaters. While the safest bet would have been to premiere the film in Venice, Telluride or Toronto, Coppola has gotten where he has as a filmmaker and entrepreneur because he has taken gambles that more often than not pay off big.

Considering Coppola’s directing pedigree includes The Godfather films, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, The Outsiders and so many other films that were both important and often prescient, and since he put up his own $120 million to make the film, one would imagine the press would not rush to judgment, but there have been some catty sourced reports. It’s like deja vu from Apocalypse Now.

I saw Megalopolis and understand why Coppola made it and what his ultimate goal is. He’s trying to get future generations invested in the film, long after he is dead, and question what is happening to the world and where it leaves inhabitants 100 years from now, and asks maybe there is a better way.

The screening had in tow were family friends and filmmakers, a list that included Anjelica Huston, Nicolas Cage, Andy Garcia, Spike Jonze, Al Pacino, Jon Favreau, Colleen Camp, Roger Corman, Darren Aronofsky, Cailee Spaeny and cast members Shia LaBeouf and Talia Shire. I watched as numerous people congratulated Coppola, with tears in their eyes. Not everybody will love the film right off the bat, and cynics might cling on to the film’s price tag and the narrative. I don’t think Coppola made this film for them.

It isn’t hard to understand why the director has a soft spot for Cannes. While he funded Megalopolis through a savvy business deal that takes care of his vineyards and wine business well into the future, Coppola was in real trouble back when he made Apocalypse Now. There were plenty of cynics back then trafficking in rumors that the movie was out of control and would end his career. He brought it to Cannes as a work in progress, and it shared the Palme d’or, found its distribution and went on to become a seminal film for him.

Coppola’s new film is crackling with ideas that fuse the past with the future, with an epic and highly visual fable that plays perfectly on an IMAX screen. He covers complex themes in a remarkably brief two hours and 13 minutes, not including credits. A accident causes the destruction of a New York City-like metropolis that is decaying anyway brings clashing visions of the future. On one side is an ambitious architectural idealist Cesar (Adam Driver). On the other is his sworn enemy, city Mayor Frank Cicero (Giancarlo Esposito). The debate becomes whether to embrace the future and build a utopia with renewable materials, or take a business-as-usual rebuild strategy, replete with concrete, corruption and power brokering at the expense of a restless underclass. In between their struggle is the mayor’s socialite daughter Julia (Nathalie Emmanuel), a restless young woman who grew up around power and tires of being a tabloid fixture looking for meaning in her life.

It is not coincidental that the names — and haircuts — seem to come straight out of the Roman Empire. A filmmaker who as a child was stricken by polio, and watched the Jonas Salk vaccine eradicate that awful disease, Coppola delivers a big kiss to the possibilities of mankind’s ingenuity to adapt to and overcome most problems. He also injects a cautionary tale of what can happen when that rise-to-the-occasion human spirit is challenged by the greed, corruption and narcissism that helped topple the Roman Empire. The clash could not be more timely in an election year and a moment of heightened polarization, with misinformation meant to spread agendas, sway the public and influence policy. The film’s illustrious cast also includes Jon Voight, Laurence Fishburne, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, Chloe Fineman, Kathryn Hunter, Dustin Hoffman, D.B., Sweeney, Jason Schwartzman, Baily Ives, Grace Vanderwaal and James Remar. They are all remarkably good in bringing a complex tapestry to life.

The film’s message is Coppola betting on humanity to find its way toward the greater good, through ingenuity and empathy.

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