FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Francis Ford Coppola |||
Francis Ford Coppola

Coppola is an amazing talent whose inspiration and influence spans many generations. Virtually the link between the studio system of yesteryear and the independent minded filmmaker of the modern age, Coppola became the first major film director to emerge from a university degree program in filmmaking, thus legitimizing a now common route for many future filmmakers.

This Academy Award winner continues to enjoy an enormous critical and popular success due in large part to Coppola’s ability to break down an epic saga of crime and the struggle for power into the basic story of a father and his sons, punctuating the prevalent theme throughout Coppola’s oeuvre: the importance of family in today’s world. His personal portrait mixed tender moments with harsh brutality and redefined the genre of gangster films.

This intense, yet unassuming thriller has an impact that touches the viewer on a personal level and raises the question of privacy and security in a world of technology – thirty years ago! Coppola’s then virtually unknown cast is a roster of inevitable superstars, including Gene Hackman, Harrison Ford, and Robert Duvall. This Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Sound lost out to Coppola’s other great effort of the year, The Godfather: Part II.

Coppola's masterful Vietnam War-updating of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" was the first major motion picture about the infamous “conflict”. This colossal epic was shot on location in the Philippines over the course of more than a year and contains some of the most extraordinary combat footage ever filmed. Unforgettable battle sequences and sterling performances from every cast member (including Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Laurence Fishburne, Harrison Ford, Scott Glenn, and Martin Sheen) mark this Academy Award-winning drama as a must-see for any true film fanatic.

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Ballad of Jack and Rose, The

By BrianOrndorf

March 24th, 2005

Rebecca Miller’s “The Ballad of Jack and Rose” is a unique bit of cinema, which channels a chunk of Lars von Trier’s lustful, symbolic filmmaking style. It’s great to see Daniel Day-Lewis back in action, and while the picture eventually swerves out of control, it remains an interesting portrait of a poisonous family dynamic.


Living a solitary island life in an abandoned hippie commune off the east coast of America, Jack (Daniel Day-Lewis) and teenaged Rose (Camilla Belle, “The Invisible Circus”) have developed a tight, mildly obsessive father-daughter bond. Wary of encroaching land developers and battling an ailing heart, Jack invites his girlfriend Kathleen (Catherine Keener) to come live on the island for emergency purposes. Arriving with her two sons (Paul Dano and Ryan McDonald), Kathleen’s entrance immediately registers as a threat to Rose, whose loose grip on sanity is tested as she dreams of increasingly vivid ways to get rid of this unfamiliar woman.

For her third film, writer/director Rebecca Miller (daughter of the recently deceased playwright Arthur Miller) has finally lost her mind. After trying to capture the emotional workings of relationships in the dazzling “Personal Velocity” and “Angela,” Miller has decided to get highly theatrical with her screenwriting and direction. “The Ballad of Jack and Rose” is Miller’s attempt to channel Lars von Trier’s particular brand of symbolism and chaotic human interaction. As an investigation of disturbing behavior, the film is near perfect. As a dramatic creation, Miller’s inventive filmmaking skills have failed her.

“Jack and Rose” is a film of immense peculiarity. Miller has devised a film that addresses all types of behavioral and community issues, and smashed them into one film. The stress of the ideas weigh heavily on the plot, which touches on lost hippie idealism, forbidden incestuous thoughts, and violent jealousy. The cast is game to let Miller lead them along on this winding road, but her focus fuzzes out towards the end, leaving a great range of themes only half realized. Miller also doesn’t do her creation many favors by pitching the material so broadly, complete with a symbolic biblical snake slithering around the compound. It’s an interesting von Trierish move to add some hysteria into movie, but it comes off as strained ornamentation when the performances and interpersonal dynamics are so rich and gripping.

Enlisting husband Daniel Day-Lewis back into acting (his second film in 8 years) was an excellent move on Miller’s part to inject “Jack and Rose” with some authentic poignancy. After his towering acting achievement in Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York.” (one of the best performances of the last 10 years) Day-Lewis’s Jack isn’t as bombastic as Bill the Butcher, but the performance radiates with Jack’s violent, disintegrating idealized view of America, and its lost potential. The audience can feel his anger and disappointment with the planned destruction of the environment through suburban sprawl, and his frustrations dealing with his psychotic daughter. It’s a great performance, and works beautifully with Camilla Belle’s poison ivy Rose to create a portrait of a dangerous familial relationship, where death is seemingly (and claustrophobically) the only possible closure to this story.

Miller captures behavior so expertly that when the story starts to take over, as seen in Jack’s struggle with a greedy land developer (Beau Bridges), the film visibly sags, and starts to get grabby with motivations. There’s an interesting, unique character exploration under this cloudy film, but it’s worth the sit to witness the insanity.

My rating: B