our review of the film Megalopolis by Francis Ford Coppola

our review of the film Megalopolis by Francis Ford Coppola
our review of the film Megalopolis by Francis Ford Coppola

The trailer for the film Megalopolis (2024) by Francis Ford Coppola.

Megalopolis, the long-awaited film by Francis Ford Coppola, presented at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival, is it disappointing?

In one of his recent posts on Instagram, where he revealed the trailer for Megalopolis, Francis Ford Coppola claimed that this film was the “best work” which he had the opportunity to implement during his career spanning almost six decades. It is not an insult to him to express a doubt. Unfortunately, we did not see a very great Coppola this Thursday in Cannes, and the reactions of international journalists during the press screening which took place at the end of the afternoon were also mixed. Should we shout about the artistic end of one of the most brilliant filmmakers of the 20th century, author of masterpieces such as Secret Conversation Or Apocalypse NowPalmes d’Or in 1974 and 1979, who returns to Competition on the Croisette for the first time since this double coup?

The filming of Megalopoliswhose screenplay was rewritten “300 times in 40 years”, began in 2001 before stopping following the September 11 attacks. After investing his personal money to the tune of more than $100 million, Coppola was able to resume filming three years ago, between New York and the Atlanta studios, to spin the metaphor of a sick America, marked this times in the Trump years. We are in New Rome in the near future, where an architect with generous ideas, Cesar Catilina (Adam Driver), confronts the city’s ultraconservative mayor, Franklyn Cicero (Giancarlo Esposito), while the latter’s daughter, Julia (Nathalie Emmanuel), falls in love with him. The powerful financier Hamilton Crasus (Jon Voight) plays the role of a more or less crooked arbiter. The references are clear: it is a question of comparing contemporary America to Ancient Rome, of establishing with images how what was a monumental empire finds itself on the edge of the precipice.

Adam Driver and Nathalie Emmanuel in the film Megalopolis (2024) © Le pacte.

Adam Driver, Nathalie Emmanuel and Aubrey Plaza in the cast

In what he says about a country and a planet prey to populism, reference to Hitler included, Megalopolis does not show great lightness, using science fiction as a tool for a fairly predictable political metaphor. His treatment of female characters, particularly that played by the brilliant Aubrey Plaza, an arriviste bimbo motivated solely by greed, shows that Coppola also forgets a few people along the way in his dream of a more egalitarian society. The film is most interesting in its ambiguous portrait of a creator. The architect, aka Adam Driver, embodies a strange alter ego of the filmmaker, both brilliant – he can stop time! – and incapable of applying his ideas without making others suffer. He is not an affable man, whose work will survive him despite everything.

In the spirit of this somewhat twisted self-portrait, Megalopolis has the ultimately rare quality of never hiding, of going all-out in his desire to squarely take the future of humanity as his subject. The film tries to find a form to say it and fails as much as it always manages to get back up. We sometimes think of Tree of Life (2011) Terrence Malick, which had this same cosmogonic ambition and this suspicion of exaggerated extremism, in a more lyrical style. Here, it is the nightmare of an impossible inner peace that haunts the characters, the way their dreams are shattered, as always with Coppola. There are some very beautiful sequences bordering on the kitsch or the sublime, depending on the point of view: a circus act, a pop performance that ends badly, a montage where the utopian city is embodied by drawings, intense split screens . The breath remains undeniable.

Megalopolis reveals itself as a pure late film. That of a great 85-year-old filmmaker who is aware that he will no longer have much opportunity to return to a set and does not bother with the rules. We may prefer the Coppola who fought head to head with the Hollywood studios to produce beautiful films in a hostile system, while admiring the fact that Megalopolis completely frees itself from it. It is the film of a man alone with his visions, face to face with the possibilities of cinema. As one crucial dialogue puts it, “you must always be on the side of those you think are crazy.”

The film Megalopolis (2024) by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Adam Driver and Aubrey Plaza, does not yet have a release date.

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