This afternoon, living legend Francis Ford Coppola sat down in Chelsea’s SVA Theatre for a rambling, illuminating conversation with professional sommelier and writer Jay McInerney. They hit the requisite topics, of course — Apocalypse Now, both Godfathers, and a few other entries from his varied filmography passed through the dialogue — but they also touched on the more atypical sort of material that ultimately draws crowds to public back-and-forths such as this. After all, the Tribeca Film Festival wouldn’t have paired the full-bodied Coppola with the dry, playful McInerney if they weren’t going to discuss wine, at least a little.
Below, Uproxx reviews some of the key lessons that Coppola imparted during this uncommon opportunity — savor this article’s notes of persimmon, inviting bouquet, and clean finish.
1. Coppola saw the digital writing on the computerized wall years before the rest of us.
Coppola described himself as a “former boy scientist,” and that interest in technology gave him some valuable perspective on the imminent digitization of film. Coppola recalled a time around 1979, when he speculated that if audio tracks could be isolated and artificially manipulated — “if you could take one saxophone and make it sound like 20 saxophones” — then the same could be done for the image, which was at the time a slave to the careful chemistry through which film strips are prepared for exhibition. He imagined a future where completely computerized programs could replace the exhaustive snipping and cutting of the editing process. “You no longer cut a film,” he said. “You compose a film.”
2. He has accepted that superheroes are king, but he’s not exactly pleased about it.
Coppola was one of the visionaries who rose to prominence during the ’70s and helped spawn a New Hollywood wave of artistically accomplished films that debuted to huge box-office returns. The studio heads were pleased as punch at the young upstarts’ output, and, as McInerney puts it, “gave [them] the keys to the kingdom.” (Coppola corrected him, “Well, we swiped the keys.”)
Times have changed, however. Coppola spoke about the ever-widening divide between massively budgeted studio pictures and small indie projects. He mentioned the superhero genre as the current hot trend in studio filmmaking, and looked back fondly on the days when studio were willing to gamble on original ideas from bold creators. The difficulty many creators have finding funding has seriously frustrated him as well; he confessed to having thrown his Oscars out the window in a rage when he felt like Apocalypse Now would never happen.