Francis Ford Coppola returns to the horror genre
The Godfather, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now: Francis Ford Coppola was the film genius of the 1970s. In the decades that followed, he became less extraordinary. Twenty years after Bram Stoker’s Dracula, he is returning to the horror genre. Though Twixt is primarily an exploration of what film can be.
Twixt is about a second-rate author (Val Kilmer) who has been drinking himself to death since his daughter died. The odd sheriff (Bruce Dern) of a small town encourages him to write a book together about a recent murder. The ghost of a young girl (Elle Fanning) and the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe help him to find links to a much older murder mystery. Twixt belongs in the same category as Youth Without Youth (2007) and Tetro (2009): it’s not a masterpiece but you don’t want to miss it because it is still Coppola and if you know his life and work, you will understand how personal the film is. At the Festival of American Film in Deauville, Coppola revealed some of his secrets. “‘Twixt’ is an obsolete word that denotes the space between dream and reality, day and night, good and evil. The story is in the tradition of the Gothic novel; Edgar Allan Poe, etc. It turned into an unusual film that is not easily categorised. Twixt is partly Gothic romance, partly very personal, partly a Roger Corman low budget production that ultimately neither is nor looks low budget. I love it.”
In Twixt, the director uses 3D. And yet, this is not the technique that will shape the future of cinema. Coppola has
more faith in the live editing of film. “A year and a half ago, everyone was raving about Avatar and 3D. As a young man, I was very interested in the 3D of the 1950s. There have been various periods in which people thought 3D was the solution to getting audiences to the cinema. But it never worked. Hitchcock filmed Dial M for Murder in 3D, but in the end the normal version was the only one they ever screened.”
“I can’t believe that this beautiful, young art form only has 3D left to offer us. According to me, cinema is still holding back some revelations. Live cinema, for example, is so far undiscovered. Nowadays, films consist of a few digital files. They could be edited while you interact with the audience. These days, I seldom see a play that doesn’t use images or close-ups. Theatre is becoming cinema and cinema can also become theatre. I think it would be interesting to turn film into a performance as well.” Coppola wanted to test that idea on Twixt. For the time being, the film showing at the cinema was edited beforehand in the classical way.
While his daughter Sophia Coppola swears by celluloid, father Coppola has been working with digital film for some time. “My daughter only makes films on celluloid. I understand that young people want to be part of the great tradition of real film. Especially now that it has become difficult to buy celluloid. But I am old. I want to learn to use the digital format. The transition from photochemical to digital is very significant. We are exchanging the mechanical assembly of shots for a composition of images. The consequences for cinematographic expression are enormous. We stand on the eve of a new age in film. The only thing stopping it is business interest. The people who make money with film want to keep it that way. They are very suspicious of change and the radical democratisation of means.”
Does Coppola never look back? “I have the impression that I was always in trouble. My work was always surrounded by controversy. Films like Apocalypse Now were initially laughed at. I was called a megalomaniac. My career was certainly not a straight line to success. I constantly achieved failing success.”
(Photo Francis Ford Coppola © Kris Dewitte)
US, 2011, dir.: Francis Ford Coppola, act.: Val Kilmer, Bruce Dern, Elle Fanning, 99 min.