Having achieved immense acclaim in the 1970s with The Godfather and its equally great sequel, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now, Frances Ford Coppola often underwhelmed audiences with much of what followed this legendary run. His gambles with experimenting in genre, form, and even production methods resulted in a string of features unfairly maligned. But when new artistic ground is broken, it almost never appears as such at first glance.
Unlike many of his New Hollywood contemporaries, who tend towards a limited set of themes, there are little to no boundaries in Coppola’s cinema. Whether reviving the Hollywood musical on one of the most elaborate sets in cinema history with One from the Heart, visiting Harlem in the 1930s to reflect on the nature of art and racism with The Cotton Club, or reinventing his cinema on an independent palette with the sublime Tetro, Coppola has constantly evolved his filmmaking with new (and renewed) styles to further the possibilities of storytelling. Unfurled through time, and in the case of The Cotton Club, re-worked with hard-earned artistic freedom to produce a new, final cut of the film, the blemishes of these experiments have faded or been revised to reveal themselves as pure cinema by an auteur whose only unifying obsession is the evolution of an art form.