• Tucker: The Man and His Dream

    Tucker: The Man and His Dream


    "Where is my car? What's left of it? Anything?"

    Pretty irresistible in its self-portrait of Tucker as the archetypal dreamer raging against a system that actively fights to maintain the status quo in the face of new ideas. What's moving here is the way that Tucker's dream slowly slips through his fingers due to both the cynical maneuverings of bureaucrats as well as technical failures. While the business and political rivalries maliciously undermining Tucker's dreams is very clearly connected to…

  • The Rainmaker

    The Rainmaker


    Coppola's interest in this material is obvious in its idealistic fight for justice among the money hungry amoral sharks. As a legal drama, this is pretty consistently good. The awkwardness of the material for me comes into play when the central romantic relationship is used to deepen the protagonist's larger sense of idealism. Not only does he fight the insurance companies and refuse to give into shady legal practices, he also will literally get into fistfights to protect a battered…

  • The Power of the Dog

    The Power of the Dog


    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    One mark of a great film is the way that it can humanize a hateful figure without ever excusing his abuses. This movingly traces a trajectory of homophobia fueling the adoption of a performative hyper-masculinity that inevitably harms women. Phil is initially defined primarily by his callousness and macho posturing - one of his first scenes sees him literally burning a delicately handmade paper flower before publicly roasting the sensitive boy who made it. But the film gradually develops each…

  • Gardens of Stone

    Gardens of Stone


    Significant for two meta-textual reasons that give this film a greater importance in Coppola's filmography than it likely deserves. The first is that it's something of a companion piece to his iconic Vietnam movie Apocalypse Now. In describing AN, Coppola usually goes out of his way to say that the film isn't directly about Vietnam and the specific politics surrounding it. Instead, it's more of a mythic portrait of wartime psychology more generally. This takes a similar approach as actual…

  • Peggy Sue Got Married

    Peggy Sue Got Married


    "The things that happened to me 50 years ago are more on my mind than the things that happened today"

    As light as the film's overall touch is (and this is Coppola's funniest movie by a mile), Peggy Sue's trip back to high school in the aftermath of a looming divorce has a melancholic flair to it throughout that sometimes hits really hard. The time travel is literal in the film's universe as her travels have clear impacts when she…

  • Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne

    Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne


    Even as this relies on many aspects of film that Bresson's later work would consciously shed (professional actors, heavy dialogue, expressive lighting), this is a really and touching unique melodrama. At a basic narrative level, the film follows the scorned Hélène getting revenge on her former lover Jean by manipulating him into falling in love with a former prostitute Agnès. There are two unique aspects of this narrative set-up. The first is that we experience much of their initial courtship…

  • The Cotton Club

    The Cotton Club


    For all its many decades-spanning narrative arcs, I only find two at all compelling: the brother partners who have a frayed relationship when one strives for solo success and the larger thematic undercurrent about black performers being dehumanized by the wealthy white elites they entertain. The gangster elements and love story never elevate above the generic that Coppola is clearly putting them in conversation with (the spinning headlines of old gangster movies, the fact that Gere becomes a star in…

  • Rumble Fish

    Rumble Fish


    The Outsiders downplays the more complex class and family strife themes lurking in the material in favor of a sentimental portrait of hanging onto innocence in challenging situations. Here, Coppola drills down on the specific issues within the milieu while pushing his experimental side as a stylist within the lower budget grittier context. There's a nice meandering quality to the narrative as a whole where Rusty James floats between various fights, girl problems, and competition with other boys around him…

  • The Outsiders

    The Outsiders


    Deferring to the tone and beats of the novel, it's hard not to view this as a bit of a retreat from Coppola's own vision following the critical and commercial failure of One From the Heart. But this is largely successful as a sentimental and straightforward adaptation of the innocent tone of the novel. There's warring clans of high school cliques sorted by class who the film wants us to see are all just people on the inside, there's tough…

  • One from the Heart

    One from the Heart


    Surprisingly, this is something of a sister to Apocalypse Now in that both films eschew attempts to situate the viewer within the psychological reality of the characters and instead try to create an experience for the viewer that matches the experience of the characters. In Apocalypse Now, this looked like the nightmarishly hazy style creating an experience of the madness of war. Here, the maximalist lighting and layered compositions create an experience of love as Vegas gambling in all its…

  • The Wind Rises

    The Wind Rises


    Even if it's missing some of the fantasy elements that defines much of the narratives of his work, it's hard to imagine a better swan song for the thematic preoccupations that have dominated Miyazaki's career. Visions of apocalypse, whether due to environmental devastation or the destructiveness of war, dominate his films. Usually, his work follows innocent protagonists who are stuck between warring sides and actively try to prevent catastrophe. However, here Jiro is actively complicit with the destruction that he…

  • Apocalypse Now

    Apocalypse Now


    "It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means"

    "There's nothing I detest more than the stench of lies"

    One of the main critiques of the Godfather films is the way that they (especially the first one) attempt to mythologize their characters as being symbolic of a larger American decline, but in doing so ultimately glamorize some of the most violent forces in American capitalism. Apocalypse Now operates on a similar…