As I was setting up my recording equipment in preparation for my interview with her on April 10, 2017, Eleanor Coppola and I talked about the lost opportunities of cinema concession stands. In particular, how they are missing a dynamite marketing option when they don’t stock items related to the films being shown, in this case chocolate roses. It was just after I told her that the only bad thing I found in her debut narrative film, PARIS CAN WAIT, was that it left me craving chocolate. The divine treat figures prominently in her tale of Anne, the wife of a prominent film producer, who finds herself chauffeured on a prolonged journey from Cannes to Paris with a business associate of her husband. What should have been a day trip, turns into an overnight adventure where Anne, no longer catering to the needs of the loving husband who takes her for granted, discovers the simple pleasures of taking each moment as it comes.
The formal interview, though, started with Coppola describing why, at the age of 70, she decided to make a narrative film after years of making documentaries, writing books, and designing costumes for a Bay Area dance company. We went on to talk about the creative process; cocooning with her French crew; and what it was like the first day on the set.
We went on to talk about the importance of costume design, where she was gracious enough to humor my penchant for reading way too much into things; how she created a cinematic collage from her own experience driving from Cannes to Paris; the freedom conversation when we talk to strangers; and the pleasures and perils of a making a film while also taking a road trip.
We finished by talking about Coppola’s way of bringing the past into the present; how the pictures that Anne takes in the film are and aren’t Coppola’s; the disconcerting, yet delightful, image that she uses to end her film; and her struggles putting herself, and her creative impulses, second for the first part of her life; and where her creative explorations might take her next.
PARIS CAN WAIT is her film about the unexpected fallout of our heroine, Anne, having an earache at the worst, or possible best, possible time. Unable to fly with her producer husband, Michael, to Budapest, she accepts an offer from Michael’s friend, Jacques, to drive from Cannes to Paris, a trip that will proceed at a leisurely pace in a vehicle that has more character than reliability. Along the way, Anne’s misgivings about a day trip turning into an overnight excursion, are set aside as she comes to accept Jacques’ eccentric devotion to fine dining, small hotels, and serendipitous side trips. One of which involves an old girlfriend. The luxury of time, the intoxicating sense of freedom, a backseat full of roses, and a table laden with some of the finest chocolate desserts available anywhere in the world change Anne’s paradigm forever. The film stars Diane Lane as Anne, Alec Baldwin as the husband who loves her but takes her for granted, and Arnaud Viard as the tour guide showing her life’s possibilities. Coppola directed from her own script, which is loosely based on an incident in her own life. Her previous work includes the documentary HEARTS OF DARKNESS: A FILMMAKER’S APOCALYPSE, CODA: THIRTY YEARS LATER, the book Notes on The Making of Apocalypse Now Paperback, and her memoir, “Notes on A Life.” An accomplished artist, she has designed costumed for the Oberlin Dance Company, and been the subject of a retrospective at the Sonoma Art Museum, and owns the Rubicon Estate Winery, and she has produced not just films, but also two filmmakers.