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Can Cannes save Francis Ford Coppola’s “megalopolis”?

When Francis Ford Coppola arrived in Cannes in 1979 to present an unfinished version of “Apocalypse Now,” he suffered bad press. The budget for his Vietnam saga continued to skyrocket, forcing Coppola to offer up his car, his house, and even the profits from The Godfather, as collateral to cover the excess. The production was biblically tormented: its original star Harvey Keitel was fired days after filming, his replacement, Martin Sheen, suffered a near-fatal heart attack, a typhoon destroyed much of the set, and filming planned for lasting six weeks stretched over 16 months. . For the chattering classes, “Apocalypse Now” had all the makings of a cinematic disaster. It turned out to be quite the opposite.

At a press conference in Cannes, Coppola was blunt: “There were too many of us. We had access to too much money, too much equipment and, little by little, we went crazy.

Forty-five years later, Coppola returns to Cannes with his latest epic, “Megalopolis,” a $120 million examination of greed and idealism set in a futuristic America scheduled to premiere Thursday. Like “Apocalypse Now,” the film was plagued with one bad headline after another. Coppola allegedly ran a chaotic set, smoking marijuana, leaving cast and crew waiting and behaving in an “old-fashioned” manner with female extras on set, according to an explosive article in the Guardian (Coppola’s reps did not respond to a request). to comment on the piece). But even before that story broke, a screening Coppola hosted for studio executives and fellow filmmakers in Los Angeles generated bad buzz. This left many viewers perplexed – one described the film to Variety as “bullshit”, while others dismissed his critical and commercial perspectives.

But will Cannes prove a redemption tour for Coppola, who has defied skeptics in the past, or will “Megalopolis” be a late-career disaster for an artist who also produced his lot of expensive duds with his masterpieces?

If nothing else, the Guardian story made the prospect of selling the film to a distributor even more difficult. “It’s a very difficult film from a marketing point of view,” said a source who has seen the film and finds it very impressive. Other, more adventurous players in the industry have said there is a way to solve this marketing problem and present the film as nondescript. After the screening in Los Angeles, one attendee said he thought the film was “actively making fun of a risk-averse industry.” It is Coppola who demolishes the modern temple of Hollywood. »

Initially, Coppola was determined to sell the film himself and forgo working with a sales agent. And after recently firing CAA, he has also been working without a personal agent, according to sources. But following the disappointing screening that attracted most major studio executives, a group that doesn’t typically acquire big-budget films, Coppola began working with international sales company Goodfellas. Ahead of the festival and on the ground in Cannes, Goodfellas sold the film in several foreign territories, including France. Notably, these individual territories do not have rights to paid video-on-demand or streaming options for “Megalopolis,” perhaps on purpose to attract a major streaming service that could support the film with global subscribers after a theatrical deployment.

Although the Guardian story poses an unwelcome headache for Coppola and Goodfellas, some buyers believe it won’t hamper their ability to find a U.S. distributor.

“In this case, my intuition is ‘no.’ I’m sure there was some old-fashioned and off-color behavior that should not be tolerated. However, in this context, the film will succeed – or fall – on its own merits,” said one buyer who is keeping an open mind ahead of the Cannes debut on Thursday.

Sources say Coppola is looking for a distributor to release “Megalopolis” in the fourth quarter of 2024, where he will run an awards campaign. A24 or another knowledgeable distributor are considered ideal solutions. But some potential indies have seen the film and don’t feel like there’s much upside: They don’t believe the film has much Oscar potential beyond the technical categories and are concerned that Coppola should not be too demanding a partner. However, if the price of domestic rights drops or if Coppola, who invested his own money to make the film, is more interested in hiring a domestic distributor, then “Megalopolis” could become more attractive.

Another buyer also said the negative press following the studio chiefs’ screening coupled with the Guardian article might even help “Megalopolis” find a home.

“The way it was organized is they had a movie screening for all the people who don’t really buy movies. They wouldn’t know a Bertolucci film if it hit them in the butt,” this buyer said. “Now that they’re here, it’s an underdog film. And everyone is mobilizing. »

Cannes, with its audience of film buffs, could give a warmer welcome to “Mégalopolis” than the one that greeted it during the previous industrial screening. However, Coppola will face another test on Friday at a press conference in Cannes, where he will almost certainly be questioned about the Guardian story. How he reacts could affect the film’s fate with American distributors.

In the case of “Apocalypse Now,” Coppola ended up having the last laugh. Although some critics were initially dismissive, the film’s estimates have only increased over the years and it is now considered one of the greatest films ever made. But even in 1979, Cannes seemed to recognize Coppola’s film for the masterpiece that it was: “Apocalypse Now” went on to share the Palme d’Or with “The Drum.” Perhaps “Megalopolis” will have an equally happy ending.

Gn entert
News Source : variety.com

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