|by Thom Fowler
When you step in front of the media, everything counts. Roman Coppola was wearing a sophisticated navy blue tailored suit that hung casually off his not-completely-neglected frame and accented by a tie from the chic Union Square boutique, Agnes B. Sitting at a table crowded with journalists with various agendas and writing for a slew of totally unrelated magazines, the biggest challenge is to send out a consistent message about his first feature film, CQ. I always wonder what the other journalists will want to know about and sometimes I wonder if they know they are journalists rather then, as one writer for About.com told me, “satisfying the studios”.
His lifestyle fantasy is a subplot in our own lifestyle fantasies and I wanted to know the how’s and the who’s and should we care.
It turns out that we should care. I know, its just entertainment and thankfully someone, somewhere, keeps churning it out. CQ is fun, takes itself seriously in all the right places and avoids a whole slew of traps Coppola could have easily fallen into. Just because your father is Francis Ford doesn’t mean you are going to have talent or even need it if you just learn craft and surround yourself with the world’s leading cinematic story tellers.
Okay, so we all want to hate him already for just “being there” without even having to try. But he made a pretty groovy movie.
He looked exhausted and the makeup didn’t exactly cover the shadows under his eyes.
Coppola passed around a rough cut of the film last year after being accepted into Cannes and has since cleaned it up quite a bit. The version in theatres is the “final” cut of the film which is slightly shorter and slightly different. He’s been busy preparing the director’s commentary for the DVD, a task he finds “never ending. There are so many things on your mind when you are watching it. The story, the music, it was hard to stay on top of things.”
Coppola began his career in film when he was a teenager, working for his father as a soundman on The Outsiders and then Associate Producer on Rumblefish. After attending NYU film school, he worked primarily as a producer and then directed music videos for Moby, Daft Punk and even Green Day. He also established a commercial and music video production company called The Director’s Bureau in 1996. Its no wonder he waited so long to work on a feature.
With commercials and music videos, the product is already there and the director helps come up with a visual package. When you are making a film, the product is your imagination. Coppola is sensitive to being the son of Francis Ford, and like his sister, he wanted to create something that was uniquely his. “Obviously, there is going to be a special eye cast my eye. Who’s this guy? What does he have to offer being the son of this famous director. So I couldn’t do anything less then to make something that really came from my heart and was something that only I could do and it just took a while to cook that up.”
He’s hoping it’s a strategy that will pay off as he builds his reputation as a film maker. “Whatever [the audience] reactions are, I feel there is a lot of merit to putting out what only you can do and to do it from your heart in a sincere way.”
Even if you are the son of a famous director, you’ve still got to pony up the dough. American Zoetrope, Coppola senior’s film company, started a program to fund a certain kind of indie flavored, mid-budget film. Hal Hartley made No Such Thing under the program.
Now how hard is it going to be get money to make a movie from your Dad’s production company? And now I have to tell a tiny story. I have this friend who’s step mother is a “famous writer” and I used to be very jealous, thinking that he had all these natural advantages because of it. But then, it dawned on me, he also had to do the work and establish his own reputation and would be held to high standards by the literati he was rubbing shoulders with. So he didn’t have it easier, he just has it different.
This is how I feel about Roman. He’s not just the fuck-up son who needs a purpose in life and knows little else than the floating world of international fame, glamour and wealth.
The bug bit and he was anxious to step out of the shadows and become a force in his own right. Making the decision, it seems, was only half of it. Providence needed to meet him halfway.
“Sometimes in life there is just the “right” time. When its your time, or it’s the right time, things go very smoothly. I was pretty lucky or blessed or harmonic convergence or whatever it was. Whatever it was that I had to show. American Zoetrope had put together some money to fund movies of this type, this type being under ten million dollars. So anyway, there was this program and luckily I was picked.”
So while I want to paint a portrait of a no-talent son of a famous director whose whole career has been a string of excuses and favors because that’s what you really want to hear, the truth is slightly more mundane. The boy works.
It wasn’t all cake and roses though.
“The casting was very difficult. It’s always very hard to get actors to truly commit and to show up.”
They were ten days into the shooting before they even had their lead, played by Angela Lindvall. Lindvall plays a dual role as the actress Valentine, and her character, Dragonfly, a space age sixties sex kitten super spy. Ohhhhhh Yeah
“When I think about it, I get all riled up. It was a big deal. She’s the fundamental, iconic role in the movie so it was essential to get it right with the physical beauty and the attitude and the showy side of Dragonfly and he intimate, personal side, the “real” character, Valentine. I was frantic, looking around, looking at a lot of people. My sister mentioned her, someone handed me her picture.
I put the word out, “Hey, who can play this?”. I’d seen her photo and she was very attractive. Models have a card to represent themselves, they have two pictures. In one she was like totally dressed to the nines, the other one she was laying in the grass without any makeup. I thought “this represents what I’m looking for and that’s what I want.”
Lindvall, however, had never acted, but that wasn’t a problem for Coppola.
“I did a little impromptu test and I just felt she had the qualities I was looking for and I was won over by her. “
CQ has so much in it, its hard to begin untangling it. I got interested in the amalgamation of images and sensibilities: the student movement of 1969 Paris, the French New Wave, 60’s B-Grade sci-fi, Campy James bond and a comic book like story line. Coppola started with a general idea that he wanted to make a movie and vacillated between making a student film or a personal film and hit on the idea of doing both with the film within a film about a student film maker trying to realize someone else’s personal film.
“During the writing process, I’d put music on and look through magazines and watch movies and get receptive to things that impressed me one way or the other. It was fun. You just collect all these ingredients and then start to weave them together and try to make some sense of things.”
His use of images are symbolic and iconic, pointing the way to deeper themes suggested by the film, rather than addressing them directly.
“As campy and playful as this movie is, there is a lot of sincere thought and stuff I put in that’s really from my heart. There is the young and the old, there is the flashy and the reserved, There is the fake self and the real self, there are twins. The movie was set in 1969 going into 1970 so there is also a sense of progress and evolution.”
Or as Billy Zane, as Mr.E, the leader of the revolutionary outpost on the moon, explains, “Revolution is Evolution.”
The film features a space-lounge soundtrack by Mellow. They were an obvious choice for Coppola. Finding the score wasn’t a hard decision, like using Lindvall, it was just, “the right thing”, he says.
“I fell in love with their music, They are great guys. They have a relationship with that era. They dig into the past with the instruments they use and their style.”
They aren’t the only ones digging into period sound and coming up with surprising results. Guitar vs Gravity, the solo project of Ben Adrian, is all about reconstructing vintage sound, going so far as to search for vacuum tubes for his older amplifiers and creating a unique, personal sound that belongs squarely in our own time.
link directly to this feature at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=575
originally posted: 05/21/02 03:17:21