George Lucas was granted access to Francis Ford Coppola's making of "The Rain People", which allowed him to document in this movie the filmmaking process of a long shooting in many different locations; the working relations between director and his cast and crew; the obstacles in the filming process; and the way the creator of a work of art deals with himself and with his creation, always trying to improve its quality - specially a perfectionist like Coppola - under strange and difficult circumstances.Written by
"There's more nourishment from a good film than in a box of Wheaties." - Coppola
Now here is a genuinely interesting and possibly priceless artifact: Francis Ford Coppola on the set of one of his films, this when he was still this young, brash filmmaker and before he took the world by storm with the two Godfather films and the Conversation. While there's already Hearts of Darkness: a Filmmakers Apocalypse, that was directed by two filmmakers (with some assist from Eleanor Coppola) and was using footage shot during the making of that film and modern-day interviews.
Here, young apprentice George Lucas is there to get his mentor Coppola making a cross-country film that's going from east to west (this by the way as Easy Rider was going from across the south west to east, though obviously they didn't know that during shooting). And what we get is the full, unvarnished Coppola, a man who could be found tearing into his actors (Shirley Knight is the one who seems to get an argument going with the director about a scene), or over the phone with some unnamed guy about union issues. Oh, and passion, lots and lots and LOTS of passion.
One can see why Lucas, or anyone, would be attracted to the orbit that was the Sun of Coppola: he has a temperamental but forceful way of talking with people (if not exactly *at* them), and in such a way that makes them contribute as well. The Rain People (which by the way is, along with Tetro, the filmmaker's most underrated and under-seen work and an unusually powerful drama) is an ideal production to follow along anyway; the fact that Lucas has so much access while getting so much footage both on the fly and from places that seem almost impossible (where he's at during a filming at a wedding scene, who knows) that the diary aspect seems to be more than just the subtitle of this little documentary. He's there charting as much of the day to day as can happen.
I think if this had been simply a puff piece of Lucas metaphorically giving his filmmaking brother in arms and bestest friend at the time a BJ then it might not work as well, if it was only adulatory in tone. This is more... helpful than that, more about showing all the dimensions of Coppola and also showing a few components of the production (though if I had one small criticism there could have been more of that, not just the art director or grip, like how did the sound guy feel while we're at it). There are even points near the end of this documentary, as Coppola is talking about how the editing is going, that he comes out and says that some sections of the film are bad (though he's quick to follow up and say some parts are really brilliant, so there's that). But still, that's got some guts for Coppola to even let Lucas keep that in there, much less say that on film.
At the time Lucas had just finished graduate school at USC, and this was a production that was a total 180 from the lumbering Hollywood sprawl of McKenna's Gold, which he also shadowed in the summer of 1967. The energy of shooting a production for under a million dollars with a small crew and actors who could/would work without trailers and such must have been inspiring to Lucas, and that inspiration comes through in what he shows us and in the voice-overs from Coppola.
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