Classic Films of Francis Ford Coppola

Posted by Jim on Jun 22nd, 2017
Jun 22

For an overview of SAIL, see this post.

Francis Ford Coppola is one of America’s greatest filmmakers. Although he has had some well publicized flops, his epic films about the Corleone family and the Vietnam war are some of the most important films ever made. I feel that while most students will have heard of the Godfather, and some may have seen it, an entire program of Coppola’s films would be beneficial for these budding film scholars.

Day One (half day)
The Outsiders (1983, 114 minutes)
Rumble Fish (1983, 94 minutes)
Evening Screening
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992, 128 minutes)

Day Two
The Conversation (1973, 113 minutes)
The Godfather (1972, 177 minutes)
Evening Screening
Apocalypse Now Redux (1979/2001, 202 minutes)

Day Three
The Godfather, Part II (1974, 200 minutes)
Tucker: A Man and His Dream (1988, 110 minutes)
Evening Screening
The Godfather, Part III (1990, 162 minutes)

The program begins with two coming-of-age literary adaptations. Both The Outsiders and Rumble Fish were originally novels written by S. E. Hinton, who collaborated with Coppola on these adaptations. Filmed in succession, they provide a good example of what Coppola was up to in the 1980’s. As both films deal with characters who are entering adulthood, I believe the will be of interest to high school students.

That evening we will screen a great horror film, Coppola’s version of Dracula. Gary Oldman gives an incredible performance as the titular vampire. This film does include a lot of the sensuality that is associated with the vampire mythos, and as such, I wanted to screen it outside of the school day.

The first full day of films begins with The Conversation, a highly acclaimed film that is often overlooked by the Godfather films that Coppola made on either side of it. The Conversation did win the top prize at Cannes. In the afternoon we will watch the first part of the Godfather saga. Much has been written about how important this film is, and I will not try to duplicate that here. I will say that I learned a lot about this film while taking a course on Gangster Films at Bowdoin, and I will share my knowledge with the students in association with this screening.

In the evening we will have a long screening of the expanded version of Apocalypse Now. Much has also been written about this film. I am confident I will be able to find academic articles to reference in our discussion of the film.

The final day of the program begins with the second part of the Godfather saga. Arguably a better film than the first, it is a movie that only really succeeds if you are familiar with Part I. Because we are watching it the next day, all the events of the first film will be fresh in the students’ minds.

Following lunch, we will screen a smaller Coppola film, but one I really enjoyed the first time I saw it (back in college). Tucker features a great performance by Jeff Bridges, and also features his father Lloyd. The story is also really interesting. A car manufacturer who is ahead of his time may remind students of the work Elon Musk is doing with Tesla. We will see what the discussion holds.

The final film of the series will be shown that night. It is the oft-maligned, but still worthy Godfather, Part III. I feel it is important to conclude the trilogy in this program. Having watched all three films in two days, I think we can have a meaningful discussion of Part III’s place in the trilogy and in the larger world of Coppola’s films.

If there is additional time in this iteration of SAIL, I think I would also show The Cotton Club (1984, 128 minutes). This is another Coppola film that I was first exposed to in college. It is also a gangster film, but noticeably different from the Godfather films. As it was made just after the two Hinton adaptations, I think it would fit in well on the morning of Day One.