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THE PATH TO PARADISE: A FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA STORY

THE PATH TO PARADISE: A FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA STORY by Sam Wasson (Harper)

Having taken a “big picture” approach to the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Chinatown, Wasson focuses here on an individual rather than a film. This is not a conventional biography, but the saga of a man with the soul of an artist. He doesn’t play by the rules and is never satisfied because perfection is always just out of reach. He’s a dreamer, an idealist, a gifted filmmaker who has made masterpieces but rarely derives pleasure from the experience. He is one of a kind: Francis Ford Coppola.




Wasson enables us to vicariously experience the highs and lows of Coppola’s life, from a desperately unhappy childhood—berated by both parents, coming in second to his older brother, confined to his bed for months with polio—to the adrenaline rush of creating American Zoetrope, a filmmaker’s cooperative in San Francisco that attracted hungry young talent including one George Lucas. The story of how Lucas apprenticed with Coppola (and encouraged him to take the job of directing The Godfather because they needed the money) is worth the price of a hardcover book all by itself.

How and why Francis’s wife Eleanor dealt with all of this and more is no less interesting. She too has the DNA of an artist, which helps explain her high level of tolerance for his many transgressions, both personal and professional. We also derive a keener understanding of how the making of Apocalypse Now in the Philippines drove almost everyone who worked on the production to the brink of madness.

Someone else may attempt to tell Coppola’s life story but I doubt that anyone could better analyze the brilliant and mercurial filmmaker. When I finished reading the book I felt I had been on an amazing journey…and indeed I had.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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