Criticism, controversy and the crazy story behind it: Everything you need to know about Megalopolis, Coppola's latest film

The latest project from the director of 'The Godfather' and 'Apocalypse Now' premiered this week at the Cannes Film Festival, and it caused a great stir.

“Megalopolis might be the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy every single batshit second of it." This is one of the few positive reviews the movie has received, so far. 'Megalopolis,' Francis Ford Coppola's latest fascinating and controversial movie, made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival this week amid scandals, criticism and praise.

Curiously, Megalopolis premiered at the French festival almost half a century after Coppola won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival with 'Apocalypse Now,' one of the director's greatest films, which at the time, was not very well received by critics and later ended up becoming one of the great classics of cinema, like 'The Godfather' or 'The Conversation.'

However, something special happened with Megalópolis: Everyone has something to say about it and there is a whole crazy story behind it.

What is it about and why is there so much noise behind it?

The movie tells the story of New Rome, a large city set in New York that was devastated by a catastrophe. Architect-scientist César Catilina (Adam Driver) wants to rebuild the city. However, Catilina must face the corrupt mayor Franklyn Cicero (Giancarlo Esposito), who will do everything possible to prevent him from achieving his dream. The mayor's daughter and Catiline's lover, Julia (Nathalie Emmanuel), plays a leading role in the story. She goes back and forth between supporting her romantic interest and betraying her family.

The trailer shows part of Coppola's vision: a futuristic delirium, with large monuments and an ambitious aesthetic that seeks to represent a kind of “Retrofuturistic” Rome in decline or, as the director himself said, a gigantic project that seeks to emulate “a Roman epic set in modern America.”

Megalopolis came with big expectations. In fact, it was Coppola's science fiction dream. He even financed this project with $120 million of his own money because no major production company bought this idea. It was even branded as “unsaleable.”

However, the director never gave up on making his vision a reality. He initially had the idea in the eighties and it took him more than a decade to figure it out. Without the support of the major studios, Coppola had to draw on his wine empire to carry out a project that is currently receiving all kinds of criticism.

At the end of the day, one of the reasons behind the great noise surrounding the film is precisely that Coppola, an undisputed cinematic legend, is carrying out his own crusade with an ambitious project that was rejected by the industry. It will be interesting to see if Coppola was right, or if spectators will side with the big studios.

Everyone has an opinion about Megalopolis 

Currently, we cannot say whether Megalopolis has convinced specialized critics.

In fact, if this film had come out just a couple of hours after its premiere in Cannes, it would have been accurate to describe the reviews as a massacre of Coppola's dream, as it had barely reached 20% approval on Rotten Tomatoes. Now that number is around 50%.

Some of the reviews are snappy.

“It's like listening to someone tell you about the crazy dream they had last night – and they don't stop talking for well over two hours,” Nicholas Barber wrote for the BBC.

“On the whole, it's a desperately portentous affair, which makes you wonder whether the cast truly believed in the material, or whether they were content just to be working for the great Francis Ford Coppola” reads the Daily Mail.

Kevin Maher, from The Times, was even harsher: “This is 138 stultifying minutes of ill-conceived themes, half-finished scenes, nails-along-the-blackboard performances, word-salad dialogue and ugly visuals all seemingly in search of a story that isn’t there."

 everything you need to know about Megalopolis, Coppola's latest film
The cast of 'Megalopolis' in Cannes. (AFP)

 

But not everything was a massacre. Some reviews value Coppola's work and intention.

One of them is from Bilge Ebire, who describes Megalopolis in Vulture as perhaps “the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy every single batshit second of it.”

Rolling Stone was full of praise: “It is exactly the movie that Coppola set out to make - uncompromising, uniquely intellectual, unabashedly romantic, broadly satirical yet remarkably sincere about wanting not just brave new worlds but better ones.”

Others, like Robbie Collin in The Telegraph, describe it in a very unique way: “Imagine Succession crossed with Batman Forever crossed with a lava lamp.”

Given such a variety of opinions, what is clear is that Megalopolis is not a simple film. Given its strongly negative reviews, it is likely that it will not be a huge success at the box office. Coppola himself has downplayed this detail.

“My children, without exception, have wonderful careers without a fortune. We are fine. It doesn’t matter. All of you here: The money doesn’t matter. What is important are the friends. A friend will never let you down. The money may evaporate,” Coppola said after being asked if he was worried about his family's financial legacy.

'The Guardian' unleashes a huge scandal

Days ago, just before Megalopolis made its premiere in Cannes, The Guardian revealed the supposed disaster behind the making of Coppola's last great work.

The extensive report claimed that everyone involved in the production felt very uncomfortable with Coppola, who supposedly smoked marijuana while filming and even kissed some of the women without their consent to "get them in the mood."

Filming was apparently disastrous and it unleashed a wave of anonymous criticism against Coppola and generated a scandal against the film and the director himself.

“It was like watching a train wreck unfold day after day, week after week, and knowing that everybody there had tried their hardest to help the train wreck be avoided,” one member of the team told The Guardian.

Another anonymous person went even further, harshly questioning the director for apparently wasting a lot of time filming.

“This sounds crazy to say, but there were times when we were all standing around going: ‘Has this guy ever made a movie before?’”

“He would often show up in the mornings before these big sequences and because no plan had been put in place, and because he wouldn’t allow his collaborators to put a plan in place, he would often just sit in his trailer for hours on end, wouldn’t talk to anybody, was often smoking marijuana … And hours and hours would go by without anything being filmed. And the crew and the cast would all stand around and wait. And then he’d come out and whip up something that didn’t make sense, and that didn’t follow anything anybody had spoken about or anything that was on the page, and we’d all just go along with it, trying to make the best out of it. But pretty much every day, we’d just walk away shaking our heads wondering what we’d just spent the last 12 hours doing,” said another third member of the filming.

Despite the negative story, the whole scandal revealed by The Guardian possibly indirectly benefited Megalopolis, because it generated even more expectation around the film before its premiere at Cannes.

Will Megalopolis be in theaters?

Normally, after a film of this caliber premieres at the Cannes Festival, it is only a matter of time before it reaches movie theaters worldwide.

However, with Megalopolis that is still unclear.

For Coppola's latest great work to reach theaters across the country, it first needs a distributor. No one in the United States has dared to accept this challenge.

However, there is still a lot of hope that Megalopolis will make it into theaters, especially since there are already countries where it will be distributed.

One of them is Spain, thanks to Tripictures which agreed to distribute Megalopolis on a date that has yet to be announced.

Constantin Film will do the same for Germany and all German-speaking territories, including Switzerland and Austria; Eagle Pictures for Italy; and Entertainment Film Distributors Limited for the United Kingdom.

Last week, Le Pacte announced that it will distribute Coppola's film for France.

One thing that could help Megalopolis get picked up by a distributor for the United States is that it not only has a historic director behind it, but also a cast of the highest level: Adam Driver, the protagonist; Giancarlo Esposito, Nathalie Emmanuel, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, John Voight, Laurence Fishburne, Talia Shire and Dustin Hoffman.

Now we just have to wait patiently for Megalopolis to make its appearance in theaters.