|Francis Ford Coppola
In the trendy heart of Argentinas Italian community, Francis Ford Coppola says he has been set free. Free at last to make movies — one a year, he hopes — with full financial and artistic control, taking advantage of Argentinas relatively low production costs and the creative inspiration he finds on the streets of its capital.
After a while I realised that I was getting further and further away from what my original intentions had been, the 68-year-old film-maker explains in an interview with The Associated Press. So at this age I decided, Well why dont I make the kinds of films I wanted to do when I was 18? Ill just do it later in life.
The five-time Oscar winner, best known for The Godfather trilogy about the Corleone mafia family, is preparing to shoot a film about a much different, but equally dysfunctional, Italian-immigrant family.
Tetro, for which Coppola wrote an original screenplay, follows two sons of a great but monstrously self-absorbed orchestra conductor in contemporary Argentina.
Much of the film will be shot in La Boca, a neighbourhood marked by the legacy of poor Italian immigrants who arrived by the shiploads in the early 20th century. Researching his tale, Coppola discovered many parallels between Buenos Aires and the New York he grew up in.
Italian families emigrated to Argentina and the United States, and very often brothers in the same family would go two different directions, Coppola explains, relaxing in the courtyard of his new home and studio, which comes complete with the steel barbecue grill no self-respecting Argentine would do without.
Coppola, who splits his time now between the San Francisco Bay area and Argentina, says he felt immediately at home in this most European of South American capitals. He has been photographed walking alone among the shops and markets in chic neighbourhoods, a black beret pulled down over his greying hair.
Buenos Aires is a big city like New York; its full of life and it gave me a chance to put these characters in a slightly exotic setting where I would be free to work and pursue this more personal type of film-making.
Coppola has even discovered Argentinas biggest craze: attending soccer matches of the world-famous Boca Juniors team.
His stay hasnt all been pleasant — his studio was burglarised in September by thieves who stole computers and even his back-up data system. Coppola made an unsuccessful public appeal for their return, but they never stole the original script for Tetro.
After a decade devoted to paying off creditors by focusing on less personal films, Coppola says he finally has the financial freedom to pursue his own projects with proceeds from his other businesses — including his California vineyard, an organic pasta business, and three luxury resorts in Belize and Guatemala.
And he continues to cast well-known actors from outside the studio system. Vincent Gallo of Buffalo 66 and The Brown Bunny is the lead character in Tetro, backed by Spanish actress Maribel Verdu of Pans Labyrinth and Oscar winner Javier Bardem of No Country For Old Men.
Newcomer Alden Ehrenreich, 18, will play a young man searching for the estranged older brother Tetro — a tragic poet figure who broke all family ties and moved in amid the Bohemian theatre, dance and artistic community of Buenos Aires.
Coppola said he is not unlike millions of tourists who rediscovered budget Argentina after the 2002 economic crisis. People are coming here because the dollar is less compromised than even in Europe or Brazil, he said.
Coppola has made fortunes on gambles like Apocalypse Now, and lost them on commercial flops like One from the Heart. Now he says he can finance his own movies, like Tetro, for under US$15 million (euro10 million).
He has even gained a decent command of Spanish, breaking into basic sentences with a clear voice. I feel people who come to the US should definitely speak English, but I love the idea of the United States becoming a bilingual country, he explains.
At the same time, he says US English speakers could benefit from learning more about Latin Americas rich literary traditions. With his 2007 film Youth Without Youth, Coppola returned to directing after a hiatus of several years. He calls Tetro the second film of my new career, so Im just learning.
His focus now is on making beautiful, enduring films. Im not really trying to make a lot of money off the movie business, Coppola said. I want personally for people to say, God, that was beautiful!