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After decades, Francis Ford Coppola's opus Megalopolis finally debuts at Cannes

After decades, Francis Ford Coppola's opus Megalopolis finally debuts at Cannes
Director Francis Ford Coppola poses on the red carpet with cast members Aubrey Plaza and Romy Coppola, during arrivals for the screening of the film Megalopolis in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 16, 2024.
PHOTO: Reuters

CANNES — Legendary director Francis Ford Coppola closed a decades-in-the-making chapter of his long career on Thursday (May 16) as his passion project "Megalopolis," a 138-minute epic science-fiction tale drawn from Roman history, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

With "Megalopolis," the Oscar-winning director of The Godfather is in the running for the Palme d'Or for the first time since "Apocalypse Now" netted him the top prize in 1979.

Critics were on the whole unimpressed by the film but many found it had at least a smidgeon of entertainment value.

Entertainment news outlet Vulture summarised the general reception with the headline "Megalopolis is a work of absolute madness," while The Hollywood Reporter's quick take described it as "a folly that's not without a certain fascination."

Adam Driver stars as Cesar Catilina, an architect-scientist who wants to better a fictional version of New York City called New Rome, pitting him against Mayor Franklyn Cicero (Giancarlo Esposito), who prizes authority and institutions over change.

Catilina falls in love with the mayor's daughter, Julia, played by Game of Thrones' Nathalie Emmanuel, as she helps him work towards his vision and re-ignites his power to stop time.

Attesting to Coppola's cachet, even the supporting cast is particularly well-stocked with famous names such as Shia LaBeouf, Aubrey Plaza, Laurence Fishburne and Dustin Hoffman.

Almost as epic as the film itself is the long, winding road it took from concept to cinemas: Coppola first began developing the concept in the early 1980s, working on it in fits and starts in the succeeding decades with a number of actors attached.

Coppola said his plot inspiration came from an attempted coup d'etat in 63 BC by the popular Roman aristocrat Lucius Sergius Catiline, who also lends his name to Driver's character.

After almost giving up on the project in 2007 due to a lack of support, Coppola decided to follow through on it after turning 80, followed by the pandemic, which involved selling a piece of his wine business to self-finance the film's production.

"Megalopolis," with a US$120 million (S$161 million) budget, has not yet found a US distributor but, according to reports, will have a limited global release at Imax theatres at some point this year.

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