Film Directors with their Shirts Off #3

Number Three in an occasional series.

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One for all you chubby-chasers out there. Francis (Ford) Coppola dares to bare.

Next week: Istvan Szabo in a thong.

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36 Responses to “Film Directors with their Shirts Off #3”

  1. That’s when Francis was thin!

  2. The really sad thing is, in my memory the shot was this really fat guy with rolls of flab, then when I went to get a frame grab, having not seen the film for years, my reaction was, “Oh, he’s not so bad…” Which is basically a comment on MY waistline…

  3. Francis Ford Coppola, Writer, Director, Auteur, Bear

    If you’e interested I have a photos Richard Lester sans shirt. Will trade for a Mike Leigh or Billy Wilder

  4. Oh, I was just thinking of that. Plenty of shirtless Lester shots when he was directing 3 Musketeers. But I’m not sure Wilder ever worked sans chemise, and given the climate I bet Leigh hasn’t.

    Any fully nude director shots? Not counting people like Burt Reynolds or Jodie Foster who are primarily actors. One feels Fassbinder MUST have posed nude at one time or another. But I’m not sure I want to see it.

  5. Francis, this furry, bespectacled Italian Buddha… don’t know if you’ve ever read Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, a sort-of fun read that chronicles the excesses of all the American hot-shot filmmakers from the Sixties to the Eighties. I say sort-of, because a part of me feels like an idiot reading a book that places so much emphasis on bad behavior. I mention the book only because it deals with FFC dallying with a porn star and a Playboy Bunny actress wanna-be while in the Philippines making Apocalypse Now. So someone did find themselves attracted to the Chubby that was Francis. But the old cliche about power being the aphrodisiac, Coppola was still riding pretty high at this point in his career. Oh, and by the way, I mention the following for no particular reason, other than it was damn funny the last time I watched it. Who remembers the floppy-dildo swordfight between Harvey Kietel and Richard Pryor in Schrader’s Blue Collar?

  6. Coppola blows the Buddha thing by being incredibly hyper during this interview, a cartoon blur of gesiticulation. He’s at the height of his manic phase, before he got it under chemical control.

    Easy Riders, Raging Bulls would be great fun as gossip, a Hollywood Babylon of the 70s, if only Biskind didn’t pretend to be offering some kind of critical insight. He’s not. The closest he comes is in raising Hal Ashby to the top of the pyramid, but he’s incapable of arguing why he belongs there.

    I read the book while suffering from undiagnosed appendicitis, and it distracted me from my pain for a while. Then, when detailing horrifically the death of Dorothy Stratton, it helped me throw up. When I didn’t feel any better after that, I realised I needed a doctor. So I owe Biskind some gratitude for his sleazy but diverting book.

    Yes, I remember that dildo fight. Surprising that Schrader was able to get that kind of interaction going on camera when all three stars heartily detested each other (and him, I think).

  7. An Interview with Ken Russell mentioned a large nude photograph of the director on his wall, taken by his wife. I fear it may have burned with his cottage though… if you MUST see the man naked I’m sure you could go through Celebrity Big Brother 5-he got it all out on a least one occassion.

    re:Fassbinder-was naked in “Kamikaze 1989″ but I ain’t combing that film again for screengrabs-not for anyone

    Suggestions: Almodovar maybe in those early shorts, Fellini in his cartoons I gather, Paul Bartel in Caddyshack 2 for sure, Keith Gordon in either Home Movies or All that Jazz, I just know there’s a naked Kitano picture somewhe

  8. Oh, and Trier directed most of The Idiots without any pants. He supposedly did it out of sympathy with the naked actors, but by the end they were begging him to get dressed.

    I’ve got a nice topless Ken Russell shot, crucified, that I just need to scan. I can live without his dick.

  9. Peter Biskind’s book is a piece of shit. Almost everyone mentioned in the book hated it. Spielberg said that “every word in that book about me is either erroneous or a lie.”. Altman threatened violence. Bogdanovich kept complaining that Biskind hardly interviewed him or anyone of his associates, using little more than soundbites as sources. Bogdanovich also said, half jokingly that he had to talk Coppola out of doing a hit on the man. Scorsese hardly ever spoke about the book but Biskind once complained about how Scorsese kept him waiting for hours before he gave him an interview on the set of ”Cape Fear” and then went on to call Martin Scorsese, of all people, a “prima donna”.

    Biskind also introduced the horrid phrase movie-brats for the 70s phase of American cinema. All of them were between mid-20s and mid-30s for one thing. And they all started from low-budget film-making or TV and then made it big. None of them were entitled or anything.

    R. W. Fassbinder also appeared in the buff, for his own performance in ”Fox and The Friends”. A great film.

    Coppola always seemed like a big bear to me. From what I read, he can be intense and serious when needed but he also seems to have a genuinely big heart. This is a man who dreamt that American Zoetrope would be an international studio dedicated to avant-guarde blockbusters by Godard, Syberberg, Wenders and then tried to help Powell produce his “Tempest” and even tried to interest Gene Kelly in making the Zoetrope’s own version of the Freed Unit. It’s quixotic as hell but that’s a beautiful, beautiful dream.

    ——————————-
    But the old cliche about power being the aphrodisiac, Coppola was still riding pretty high at this point in his career.
    ——————————-

    Well if he was interested in power then making a big budget unconventional anti-epic about the disaster that was America’s involvement in Vietnam war is a pretty strange way to excersise that. At least he didn’t make Godfather action-figures a la George Lucas. His ”The Conversation” was also very ambitious and small-scale after the first ”Godfather”. And ”The Godfather Part II”, released close to America’s bicentennial is a radical subversion of the American Dream with some of the most ambitious narrative style in a Hollywood film.

  10. Oh Directors are always doing that. I’m not sure why though. If I was uncomfortable taking my clothes off, the close proximity of a horribly pale, leering and potenitally errect Lars Von Trier wouldn’t really put me at ease. Cameron Mitchell did it in Shortbus, Rick Rosenthal for Halloween 2, Verohen did it for Starship Troopers, Hitchcock did in for the shower scene in Psycho (maybe not…)

    Interestingly I was reading that while shooting a nude scene in 5 Easy Pieces Jack Nicholson suggested this, but Bob Rafelson refused and stopped the crew from doing so.

  11. Re:Easy Riders Raging Bulls
    Apparently there’s an extra feature on the DVD of Easy Riders Raging Bulls that gives the directors that showed (Bogdanovich Schrader) a chance to defend themselves against Biskland and this mythology. Must seek that out sometime

  12. I’ve seen the Easy Riders DVD, and it features some additional interviews, but I don’t recall anything that redresses the balance. And why would you want to be a DVD extra on a documentary based on a book you despise? To help Biskind make more money out of personally rubbishing you?

    The really cheesy thing about the book is that it has no dirt on Milius, who is surely as eccentric and ill-behaved as anyone else. And this is because Milius was one of Biskind’s main informants.

    Verhoeven stripped while filming the shower scene in Starship Troopers to make his cast accept it. While I respect his nerve, it’s worth pointing out that HE wasn’t going to end up naked 50ft high at the ;ocal multoplex, so he’s not really sharing the experience. If his cast had heard Sharon Stone’s take on the crotch shot in Basic Instinct then I can’t blame them for being nervous…

    Coppola’s dream was a quixotic mix of noble and artistic and crazy and self-aggrandizing. He released Gance’s Napoleon in America, but only after cutting it down. Kevin Brownlow, who restored it, had to sit fuming in his seat at the premiere when Coppola introduced the movie as “the complete cut”.

  13. There are a lot of conflicting stories regarding ”Napolean”. My idea was that Brownlow discovered new footage only after the screening and wants to return to his restoration but Coppola criticized the absence of his dad Carmine’s score which is putting a block on it.

    Coppola created a lot of controversies in that period. Another case was the one with Wenders’ “Hammett” which Wim nixes over here…

    http://thehollywoodinterview.blogspot.com/2008/03/wim-wenders-hollywood-interview.html

    Brownlow had his own share of controversies. Like Ford scholars and fans have never forgiven him for the number he did on the restoration of ”The Iron Horse”

  14. Biskind is indeed a menace. He’s right up there (or rather down there) with David Thomson, IMO.

    Coppola is indeed a big-hearted bear. I’m terribly superfond of One From the Heart, which was shot a few blocks away from where I was living in Hollywood. I visited the set several times when they weren’t shooting. Michael Powell, dressed in a powder blue leisure suit, rode around the lot on his bike all the time.

  15. I don’t think Coppola is a sensitive filmer of dance — Finian’s Rainbow and The Cotton Club both feature some terrible editing, close-ups of feet, etc. But in One From the Heart he’s nearer the mark, and it’s a very lovely film. It just couldn’t bear the weight of expectation placed on it by Coppola’s position in the industry (and his many pronouncements).

    Powell and his blue suit can be seen in an excellent BBC documentary for the Arena strand, made by Gavin Millar. Includes the sight of Powell tipping his hat in front of the parking lot where Rex Ingram’s studio once stood.

  16. Coppola seems lost these days. Hollywood has no use for him. He’s out on the margins of indie internbational co-productions, where Soderbergh, Schrader and even Tom Kalin have better leverage. Youth After Youth was a sad mess, and I’m not convinced Tetro is going to be any better — especially with the unspeakable Vincent Gallo in the cast.

    Naturally I would love nothing better than to be proven wrong.

  17. Well, Gallo’s an interesting talent as well as an obnoxious jerk. Problematic that his personality defects do come through in his work, but I still find him interesting onscreen. The idea of him working with Coppola is a recipe for disaster, temperamentwise though.

    Shamefully, I didn’t make it to see Youth After Youth but will rectify that by rental. Coppola’s biggest trait is his incoherence, and it takes a very rigorously conceived project to contain that ebullient messiness. I’ll be surprised if he makes another great film, but given his lack of ordered thought processes, I’m also surprised he’s made ANY, and he undoubtedly has. So what do I know?

  18. Youth After Youth is the sort of fabulist jape Ral Ruiz could do with one hand tied behind his back. It’s not Coppola’s sort of matrial at all and the result is labored.

    And a waste of a miscast Tim Roth.

  19. Scorsese and Coppola both contributed commentary for the Criterion DVD of The Thief of Bagdad that was released earlier this year. I’ve listened to it only once, but I noticed a marked difference in their contributions, Marty was sharp, informative, but Francis didn’t seem to have much to say of any real value to the listener. This came to mind when I read “… given his lack of ordered thought processes…” Both spoke of seeing it as children, Scorsese on TV, black and white, and Coppola in the theatre. Seems I recall the latter saw the film in a position of privilege, but I can’t recall the exact details, maybe an uncle owned a theatre, but I don’t think that’s it. Going to have to go back and listen again.

  20. Coppola loves Sabu’s song, “I want to be a bandit / Can’t you understand it?” which Powell thought the worst lyric ever written.

    Yes, for a writer, Coppola is remarkable disordered in his speech, almost as bad as Spielberg these days. I would imagine his commentaries would only be enjoyable for craziness.

    Maybe that incoherence served him as a screenwriter: Patton succeeded precisely because it’s undecided about whether its subject is a great man or a monster. It’s a standard cake-and-eat-it Hollywood approach to politics that’s actually more common now than then, but it’s also quite an effective way of profiling a larger-than-life character.

    It’s more problematic in Apocalypse Now, I’d say: you can of course argue it as pro or anti-war, and pro and anti-Kurtz, with plenty of onscreen evidence to make your case.

    Speaking of Ruiz, I’m on a bit of an RR bender at the moment: got to get back to it. More later.

  21. A Raul Ruiz bender could go on for YEARS! Have you seen his erotic thriller with Anne Parillaud and Billy Baldwin, Shattered Image? It’s well worth combing the bargain basement DVD stores for. I was lucky enough to see it in the NFT though, which was an entertaining mismatch being as how it revels in its straight-to-DVD rubbishiness.

  22. I would think anybody renting it as an erotic thriller in the traditional manner would be pretty perplexed by what they got though. That’s one I’ve seen but remember little about. A nice thing about RR’s sprawling oeuvre is the sense that he always makes the same film or films, that it’s a continuum, all the stories happening at once in some kind of multidimensional labyrinth.

    Anyhow, as a drunken experiment I’m watching Ruiz’s Treasure Island and the more conventional Harry Alan Towers production with Orson Welles, at the same time.

  23. You jammy jammy b*gg*r! 99% of Ruiz is impossible to come by in the U.k. -which is damn shame but does mean that like Borzage he’s one of those amazing discoveries you make once you think you’ve got cinema all figured out. Good reason for staying alive

    Shattered Image is one of the few anyone can get. What I love about it is the way that it was always going to be a trashy DVD thriller with a Baldwin brother, someone elses script, hell! Ruiz knew he wasn’t even going to get a final cut, and yet the man leapt into proceeding with total enthusiasm
    Is his Poetics of Cinema worth getting? That is available. Is more than just very odd and quite interesting?

  24. It’s more than that. It’s very interesting indeed, and while I question some of his ideas, one could in theory adopt it as an artistic philosophy to live by and produce interesting work! In fact, it might be good if it replaced Robert McKee.

    Then again, if Robert McKee was replaced with a nice armchair, or a couch, that might be good too.

  25. Melville Poupaud, who Ruiz “invented” (as somone whose name I forget remarked) is now a big star. He’s in Depleschin’s tendentious A Chriustmas Tale. Ruiz started working with him when he was 11.

    A chapter of my Film: The Front Line — 1984 is devoted to Ruiz. He maes so many films, and so quickly, it’s hard to keep up. Besides his amazing Proust film Time Regained, I reccomend Memoires des Apparances, Les Trois Couronnes du Matelot, The Roof of the Whale, The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting and Three Lives and Only One Death.

    Shattered Image is fun but very minor Ruiz.

  26. There’s very little Ruiz available in the UK, as js notes, but I’ve managed to see some and download a few more. Three Crowns of the Sailor is certainyl a major work, and I’m excited to finally have City of Pirates lined up to watch. The Roof of the Whale is within my grasp too.

    Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting was the first I saw, and though i was struck by the beauty of Viernay’s images, I didn’t “get” it. Now I feel that each film is easier to get into than the last.

  27. Hypothesis is Jean Reno’s first film. Ruiz cast him as one of his ancestors.

  28. I vaguely remember David Ehrenstein posting about Ruiz on a_ film_by long ago. About Meeting him while he was trying to get Treasure Island made or released. I’ve always loved the image of Ruiz stuck in a Holiday Inn, enjoying the Evangelists and the Twilight Zone. Also Didn’t someone post about Ruiz and his wife warning them over dinner that a (comparatively young) Manuel de Oveliria was completely insane.

    Treasure Island was on 2 Weeks with Ruiz himself at the Curzon Renoir in London.It’s ironic that UK citizens have an easier time physically getting hold of the man himself than his films. Next time he’s near I’ll grab him and shake a few films out of him.

  29. That was me. It was De Oliviera’s DP, who he insisted on starring as the male lead in Francesca even though he’d never acted before, who said De Oliveira was completly insane.

    Ruiz is a thoroughly delightful man.

  30. ————————–
    It’s more problematic in Apocalypse Now, I’d say: you can of course argue it as pro or anti-war, and pro and anti-Kurtz, with plenty of onscreen evidence to make your case.
    ————————–

    Actually the problem with people is that they take that film too straightforward and linear. When it isn’t that kind of film. It’s a very symbolic, expressionistic film. And Coppola’s point was to explore the whole confusion and chaos of that period and especially tackle the hypocrisy of the American government. Kurtz’s final bit of dialogue is something like Air Marshalls order us to bomb villages but “they won’t let us write the word “FUCK” on the planes because…it’s obscene”. It is anti-war but not in the usual way which was why Sam Fuller, a notorious critic and maker of war films, admired it a lot.

  31. But Kurtz’s position is inherited from Milius’s right-wing script: if you’re going to fight a war, the only thing that makes sense is to exterminate the enemy with all the ruthlessness possible. That’s the only way to avoid hypocrisy. And it may be true, but it’s an odd argument in the context of a war that features massacres of entire villages, napalm and agent orange. The US government showed that they could combine maximum ruthlessness with maximum hypocrisy without diluting either one.

    And Willard is coming to the same conclusion as Kurtz during his journey which is why he kills the injured boat people, because treating their wounds would be hypocrisy.

    This is why Coppola struggled with the ending — if Willard kills Kurtz he’s carried out his mission for the army, and if he joins Kurtz he’s even MORE pro-war. By going all mythic, Coppola tries to dodge the question in quite an impressive way. The net result is a victory for the army, with a moral victory for Kurtz.

    Kubrick’s biggest political point in Full Metal Jacket, as expressed in interviews, is that the Americans lost because they believed their own propaganda. Yet a striking feature of Viet Nam is that the state didn’t manage to control the images coming out of the war and onto the news — stuff kept showing up which made America and the war look bad. Some of these images became iconic. A great contrast to the present debacle, where there still hasn’t been a mainstream media image of war’s horror, and you sense that the generals and politicians really do live in a bubble. In this sense, Full Metal Jacket may be Kubrick’s most prophetic science fiction film.

  32. Milius isn’t right-wing or rather he isn’t right-wing as we know it today in the news. Milius once said of ”The Searchers” that the Native Americans were more cool and more royal than the cavalrymen(save for Ethan Edwards) “I wanted to be Scar!” is his motto in life. Not exactly right-wing in the white supremacist sense. He’s right wing the way Kurosawa is right-wing. Like him, he’s all about glorifying lone-wolf warriors and fighters.

    Some critics like Jonathan Rosenbaum look at the film as a left-right divide between Coppola and Milius. Rosenbaum did the same with ”Taxi Driver” as do other critics. Scorsese being the good guy, Schrader described by someone as sophisticated as Robin Wood, as in no uncertain words, “a fascist”. This same Robin Wood considers ‘”Heaven’s Gate”‘, “socialist”. ”Apocalypse Now” isn’t about left vs. right(neither is ”Citizen Kane”, a tragedy about a right-wing magnate), that stuff wouldn’t matter at all to American soldiers stationed there who have to kill North Vietnamese soldiers, women and children at the drop of a hat.

    The argument of ”Apocalypse Now” isn’t that you have to be “as ruthless as possible” but exploring the different layers of ruthlessness. Like Robert Duvall looks at war as fun(and he does the most violence and most horrific damage), Willard looks at everything with self-important seriousness while Kurtz has gone totally bananas waiting to be killed as a sacrifice. The most ruthless of them all is of course the people in the office commanded by Harrison Ford and they are very polite.

    ———————————
    Kubrick’s biggest political point in Full Metal Jacket, as expressed in interviews, is that the Americans lost because they believed their own propaganda.
    ———————————-

    That totally doesn’t come off in ”Full Metal Jacket” which is way more confused than Coppola ever was. The first half is excellent but the moment the second bit with all the customary, cliche’d war moments comes on, the film gets lost in a muddle. Fuller famously declared ”Full Metal Jacket” as a recruiting film and if you look at the film carefully, you’ll see he’s right. The film’s ideological incoherence open to all comers.

    Coppola’s approach was to look at that conflict from the immediate personal experience of American soldiers, that’s open to criticism(although how a citizen of an occupying country can tell the point of view of the occupied is what I’d like to know) but he doesn’t sanctify anyone and the confusion at the centre of the film certainly doesn’t make anyone want to sign up for the draft.

  33. Practically all war movies operate as recruiting films (intentionally or not) if you analyse the mentality of the people who sign up. They’re looking for financial security, and many of them have trouble finding normal jobs, and they’re also young and looking to get away from home and have extreme experiences. The most atrocious anti-war film offers an attractive vista of distant lands, wild, memorable experiences, and camaraderie. If you’re 19 you probably don’t think you’re going to die, so it’s all good. Obviously you WON’T be fighting to defend your homeland, that NEVER happens in the West, but these people don’t like to think about that stuff.

    FMJ tries to eliminate the camaraderie, or render it repellent, which probably borders on distortion of what it’s really like. I don’t see that Fuller’s films would be any less attractive to susceptible young people. The troop in Big Red One? Who wouldn’t want to be part of that gang, and with Lee Marvin looking after you?

    Milius is an anarchist of the right, yes, but most right-wing filmmakers in America tend towards that libertarian ethos. It’s distinct from what the Republicans actually DO, but it’s a big part of their rhetoric (anti “Big Government” etc).

    Schrader isn’t more right-wing than Scorsese (both had conservative upbringings but branched out when they left home) but he is less in command of his medium, so more likely to screw up the message. Actually, I wonder if Taxi Driver would have been clearer if all Travis’s victims had been black, as in Schrader’s script. It would certainly have increased a lot of people’s discomfort with Travis.

  34. —————————–
    I don’t see that Fuller’s films would be any less attractive to susceptible young people.
    —————————–

    Well Fuller screened that film to a military crowd of generals and veterans and at the end of the screening General Patton Jr.(son of Sr.) complained to Fuller “it had no recruiting flavour.”

    ———————————
    Who wouldn’t want to be part of that gang, and with Lee Marvin looking after you?
    ———————————-

    Except Lee Marvin doesn’t look after them. The film makes that clear. Fuller meant him to be an embodiment of death, someone who sells death to younger soldiers. That’s why they never get too close with each other. Every rookie who joins them is treated with indifference because they as good as marked them for dead.

    —————-
    …which probably borders on distortion of what it’s really like.
    ——————

    Which is why Fuller disliked it.

    —————————
    It would certainly have increased a lot of people’s discomfort with Travis.
    —————————-

    Which would have made it such a simple film. The point of the film was to show how banal and simple psychopaths actually are. How they are quite…normal. Schrader went through a personal crisis at that time and developed a similar mentality and combatted it by writing the screenplay.

    Besides the film already makes it clear enough that Travis is racist(like the long stare towards the black guy in that cafe) and then the kids who are on the street. And if his comment to the senator guy about “a rain washing the scum of the streets” doesn’t discomfort than nothing will.

  35. [...] second generation topless filmmaker, no less, since I featured Sofia’s dad and his lovely moobs some time [...]

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