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.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Throne Of Blood

By EdwardHavens

August 9th, 2002

For most readers of this review, they will never get the opportunity to see classic films on the big screen. As great as having the ability to watch practically anything you want at any time you want is, nothing beats going to a real movie theatre to watch a real motion picture with a group of like minded people. I don’t care if you spent $175,000 on a Proceed Home Theatre Pre-Amp/Processor, Mark Levinson 125 Watt Mono Block Amplifier, Runco HDTV Ready Front Projection System with Faroudja Video Processor and a Stewart 110in Film Screen, Wilson Speakers, Transparent cables and power conditioners and an AMX Touch Screen Remote. Short of building your own movie theatre in your basement with authentic movie theatre seats and a 35mm projector with all four properly aligned lenses and aperture plates, you are never going to match that feeling you get when you sit down in that movie house, when the lights begin to dim, the curtain opens (if you’re lucky) and that first image comes across the silver screen.


Do I sound bitter? It’s not my intention. I’m so much a movie geek that I moved to New York City so I would be able to frequent the veritable cornucopia of movie theatres that have regular screenings of older titles and outside the norm features that just won’t show at your local googleplex. Back in my high school days, my friends and I used to go to the Sash Mill Cinema in Santa Cruz at least once a week to catch whatever old film noir or series of short films that would be playing. We all would have the Sash Mill calendar hanging in our rooms somewhere, so we were sure not to miss a single important title. The theatre closed in the early 1990s, while some of us had moved to Los Angeles to seek our fame and fortune. I was angry when I first learned the owners had closed the theatre, but eventually I came to realize I was lucky to have the theatre last as long as it did. Most rep houses closed half a decade before, shortly after the explosion of home video. Thankfully, in New York City, revival screenings not only still happen, but several locations are dedicated to keep the hope alive. One such theatre is the Film Forum, a not-for-profit venue which has dedicated one of its three screens to the exclusive showing of older features. Sometimes these features run solo, such as the recent engagements of The Producers and Metropolis. More often than not, however, films are scheduled into block themes. One such theme is the Kurosawa/Mifune series featuring all twelve features the two made together.

The series began with 1957’s Throne of Blood. Six years after the pair became world famous thanks to the Oscar winning Rashomon, Throne marked the duo’s sixth collaboration in almost a decade. A fond adaptor of the works of Shakespeare, Throne is Kurosawa’s magical transference of Macbeth to medieval Japan, with Mifune in the lead role as Washizu, the trusted general of a warlord, who slowly goes mad after his future is foretold by a spirit in the woods which surround his master’s castle.

Charlton Heston once remarked that Mifune would have conquered the acting world had he been able to act in English. With all due respect to Mr Heston, I would have to both agree and disagree. Mifune was a powerful presence who demanded your attention whenever he was on screen. However, I doubt Mifune would have ever been given the same types of opportunities in Hollywood he received in his homeland. Had Mifune come to the United States after the success of Rashomon or Seven Samurai, he would have wasted away his talents one one stereotypical role after another. His few forays into American filmmaking, long after becoming a legend, showed filmmakers over here had no idea how to use him properly. Mifune was a primal force to be reckoned with, and in films like Throne of Blood, that animal instinct shone brightly.

Kurosawa’s magic as a filmmaker is quite evident in Throne of Blood, where he is able to set a definite tone and atmosphere without luxury of a Hollywood budget. From the opening shot of dense fog obscuring a fallen fortress to the final scroll down a lonely piece of beam where the tale ends, you are under the mystical spell of one of the greatest filmmakers the world has ever known. When Washizu and his friend and comrade Miki come across the spirit in the woods, Kurosawa is able to, with nothing more than a pull in and a pull out, make both the spirit and his shack disappear. And in the final conflict, when Washiza is being fired upon, Kurosawa had real archers just off camera firing real arrows into Mifune. I can only imagine how amazing this film looked to the eyes of movie lovers a half century ago.

There are many films that I will not see until I have the chance to see them first in a movie theatre, and I am thankful to Cowboy Pictures, Janus Films and Film Forum for allowing this film fanatic to enjoy seeing Throne of Blood for the first time this way.

As if it really needs to be said, I give Throne of Blood an A+ for effort and an A+ for execution.

My rating: A+