Northbrook Public Library revisits Francis Ford Coppola's 80s work | Bleader

Northbrook Public Library revisits Francis Ford Coppola's 80s work


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The Cotton Club
  • The Cotton Club
As Drew Hunt noted the other day, the Northbrook Public Library will screen Francis Ford Coppola's The Cotton Club tomorrow at 1 and 7:30 PM. They'll also screen Coppola's Tucker: The Man and His Dream on July 10 and Peggy Sue Got Married on July 17. Could there be more 80s Coppola on the way? (The library has yet to announce any subsequent screenings.) The films he made in that decade are an uneven but fascinating bunch—for better and for worse, they reveal an artist who refuses to rest on his laurels and must continue trying out new ideas. It's possible they look better today than they did on first release. Time tends to be more flattering to the imperfect movie with glorious eccentricities than the modest success that conforms to contemporary standards of good taste.

In his 1986 pan of Peggy Sue, the Reader's Pat Graham knocked Coppola for his "endemic backward glancing." It's true the director often returned to the theme of nostalgia (indeed all three films on deck at the Northbrook Library are period pieces), but what distinguishes his 80s output is how he acknowledges his distance from the past. The Cotton Club, like One From the Heart and Rumble Fish, is so stylized that it often seems intentionally unreal—a bit like a Disney World attraction inspired by 30s gangster movies. In hindsight the film has much in common with the "Cinema du look" films being made in France around the same time (e.g., Jean-Jacques Beineix's Diva, Luc Besson's Subway), which mixed highbrow references with visual ideas from pop culture and advertising.

There must have been something in the air. One could put together a sizable program of 80s movies whose environments suggest (sometimes amusingly, sometimes eerily) bright and impenetrable objects: Nicolas Roeg's Eureka and Insignificance, Alain Resnais's Melo, Julien Temple's Absolute Beginners, Peter Greenaway's Drowning by Numbers, and Walter Hill's Streets of Fire, to name a few others that come to mind.

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