It’s a sad day when a filmmaker as revered and respected as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now director Francis Ford Coppola is relegated to the Direct-To-Video market, but so it is true. Coppola’s new film, the gothic horror inspired Twixt, stars Val Kilmer as struggling writer, Hal Baltimore, who comes to a small town on his book tour and gets wrapped up in the murder investigation of a young girl. Shot in 2010 and sitting on 20th Century Fox’s slate since 2011, Coppola described the film to the New York Times as having “grew out of dream I had… more of a nightmare…” and that Twixt evokes the imagery of Edgar Allen Poe, who appears in the film in a spectral capacity.
Independently produced by Coppola and co-starring Super 8’s Elle Fanning, Night of the Creeps’ David Paymer, Stoker’s Alden Ehrenreich and Django Unchained’s Bruce Dern with narration by Tom Waits, the film was set to go on a theatrical tour, a la Kevin Smith’s horror film Red State, with certain scenes using 3D and Black and White. In this tour, Coppola was to personally remix the film based on audience reactions to the previous scenes, which would give the audience an unprecedented amount of control for a theatrical experience. The film, when played as Coppola originally intended and constructed, received mixed to terrible reviews, causing the fearful Fox to pull the plug on the tour and opt for the home media market instead.
Regarded by many as one of Hollywood’s most influential directors, Francis Ford Coppola emerged in the 70’s as part of a group of filmmakers known as, “New Hollywood”, which challenged contemporary filmmaking ideals with unconventional methods and films that didn’t fit into the status quo. Coppola is most well known for The Godfather, of which he was hand-picked by Paramount head Robert Evans to direct, revolutionizing the crime genre overnight. Critics and audience alike praised the film, earning him three Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture and Best Director, of which was his very first nomination. Coppola followed that success with The Godfather Part II, which became the first sequel to win an Academy Award for Best Picture and repeated that same success for the Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director awards. That same year, he directed, produced and wrote The Conversation, starring Gene Hackman, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and, ironically enough, losing the Best Picture Oscar to The Godfather Part II. His next film, Apocalypse Now, a filmmaking tour-de-force taking place in the Vietnam War, was his most laborious production, almost costing the director his sanity, career and life. Despite the long production schedule, it garnered critical acclaim upon release and won the Palme d’Or as well.
While continuing to make films into the 80’s and 90’s, he was never able to emulate his past success, whilst also focusing on creating his own wine label and producing films from the likes of Tim Burton, Kenneth Branagh and Bill Condon. In 2007, after a 10-year hiatus, Coppola came back to directing with a new film, Youth Without Youth. Starring Tim Roth and Bruno Ganz and featuring more experimental imagery than of his films post-Godfather, Youth was received indifferently by critics and audiences and suffered terribly at the international box office. His next film, Tetro (2009) gained more positive reviews from critics, though it failed to surpass its budget at the box office once again.
While remixing the film live in front of an audience is a cool idea, is it practical? Is Fox making the right choice pulling the theatrical tour? Many early reviews seem to think so, describing one screening as something closer to Coppola showing a feature-length outtake reel. “Coppola was showing us random clips in random order, filling them out with alternate takes and empty effects, and Dan Deacon had this electronic drone going while Coppola and Kilmer chanted “Nos-fer-aaaaaa-tu” into microphones,” claims one critic, “I was flat out laughing.” If audiences would react negatively or against the temperamental directors intentions, maybe FOX made the right decision, and maybe Twixt will live on as a midnight movie in its own right. But what does this say for Coppola’s legacy? Will he ever reach the same critical acclaim he had in the ‘70s? With critical and audience reactions being less than favorable with each new release, should he throw in the towel and resign on the good will of his glory days? Stay tuned to Diabolique for more on Coppola and Twixt, which releases on DVD and Blu-ray in the U.S. on July 30th, 2013.
– By Robert Vaughn
Robert Vaughn is a graduate of Montclair State University, NJ, with a B.F.A. in Filmmaking. Throughout his time in the program, he worked on various aspects of pre, pro and post-production. Writing has always been a favorite of his and he feels this “favoritism” shows in his work. Various professors, students, directors and actors have praised his writing ability. On top of writing for Diabolique, he has written for TV, written/co-written feature films for So Real? Entertainment and is currently working on a feature length dark comedy script of his own. Follow him on twitter: @rvaughn881