Francis Ford Coppola: A Filmmaker's Life

Michael Schumacher, Author Crown Publishers $30 (544p) ISBN 978-0-517-70445-5
This is not an authorized biography, though it often reads like one because Schumacher systematically defends director and screenwriter Coppola against the critics who have panned his films as contrived, excessively violent or a triumph of style over substance. Still, he presents a brisk and astute portrait of one of the most influential directors of the past 30 years, adept at both operatic blockbusters (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) and smaller personal movies (John Grisham's The Rainmaker). The inner man remains elusive, although Schumacher--biographer of Allen Ginsberg, Phil Ochs and Eric Clapton--delves deeply into such personal crises as Coppola's childhood polio, during which he recuperated by making home movies; his protracted affair with a young, unnamed screenwriter, which nearly wrecked his marriage; and the devastating impact of his son Gian-Carlo's tragic death in a boating accident in 1986. The book's real strength lies in its flavorful behind-the-scenes re-creation of the making of all of Coppola's movies. Cameos of Nicholas Cage, Marlon Brando, Winona Ryder, Fred Astaire and many other stars nearly steal the show. Schumacher tends to portray Coppola as an uncompromising visionary who waged a career-long battle to free himself from the Hollywood dream factory's constrictive commercial dictates. Yet the lingering question is why the relentlessly driven filmmaker abandoned his creative, auteuristic endeavors in favor of safer, more profitable work-for-hire films. In any case, Coppola fans will rejoice. 16 pages of photos. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/04/1999
Release date: 10/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 544 pages - 978-0-609-80677-7
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