the process is the artwork

‘Headlights of society’

Francis Ford Coppola and Marlon Brando on the set of Apocalypse Now

Movie director Francis Ford Coppola and Marlon Brando as Colonel Walter E. Kurtz on the set of Apocalypse Now (1979).

“I think the goal of [my] work is to help illuminate contemporary life, so that other people (…) can have some clearer vision. And you do that by being a test case, you go though it yourself with your heart in all those institutions that are changing – marriage, religion, education, journalism – and try to shine light so that other people can better go on their adventure (…)

I know (…) that people think I’m an acclaimed person and such stuff, but I tell ‘ya, when I was making those films back in the days of even The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, I felt so rejected. We got terrible reviews, and I remember I had won five Oscars and nobody would let me make Apocalypse Now, nobody would give me the money, no actors would be in it, nobody would say «well, he did an ok job on that, let him try this». I took my five Oscars and threw them out the window of the house and they (…) got mangled and broken, and my mother (…) picked up the pieces, went to the Academy and said «Oh my poor son, the maid was dusting the Oscars and they fell (…) She got them replaced, I’m happy to say. But that’s how it felt to me: the reviews and the reactions, you know how it’s like (…) I always felt under the gun and a failure and stuff. It was only years later that Apocalypse Now gradually started to gain a following and it’s logical: when you work in a way that maybe rubs the contemporary styles the wrong way (…) you’re not going to get a good response. I mean, we all know that in La Belle Epoque, all those beautiful painters (…) were not darlings of the French Academy; Manet, Monet (…) So sometimes when you’re always trying to look for that other expression, you have to take a lot. I was always very depressed, I didn’t know that later on people would like some of the stuff and so (…) I didn’t feel very recognized (…) The same things you get fired for when you’re young are the same things you get life-time achievement awards for when you’re old. It makes sense, because you’re rubbing the culture the wrong way and they don’t like it, but later on the avant-garde art of the twenties becomes the nole furniture of the sixties, so that is what artists partly do, they are the headlights of society and with their hearts, they’re in new territories.”

– Movie director Francis Ford Coppola in conversation with Annette Insdorf at 92Y on his life and career. Own transcript from: «Francis Ford Coppola on the Future of Cinema, Marlon Brando and Regrets», available from URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHN8pgW44Q4, accessed 2016-03-12.

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