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Francis Ford Coppola Untangles “Tetro”

Francis Ford Coppola Untangles “Tetro” (photo)

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It was telling that a roundtable interview with Francis Ford Coppola ended with a great deal of enthusiasm… about his vineyards. And much of it was from the director himself, who slyly countered one of the assembled journalists’ praise of his Cabernet Sauvignon with “maybe I should offer an associate producer credit for people buying my wine.”

Of course, it was the fruit of Coppola’s estimable winery that financed “Tetro,” but the film itself appears to be a product of a filmmaker who’s become richer with age, though the clearer focus he now has as an artist has produced a feature that might seem less so for some audiences. Like his last film, “Youth Without Youth,” “Tetro” is aggressively unconventional, using crisp black and white cinematography to tell the tale of the Tetrocinis, an estranged family of artists. The youngest son (Alden Ehrenreich) feigns a leave of absence from military school, much like Coppola did in his youth, in order to seek out his mercurial older brother Tetro (Vincent Gallo) in Buenos Aires. The result is reminiscent of Picasso’s “Guernica,” if it were applied to family dynamics — bold and confrontational, tempered with flashbacks of the family’s painful past, occasionally in color, and splashed with scenes of ballet shot in vivid reds and blues, all brought together with the command of a master filmmaker.

Coppola himself wouldn’t agree with that last part — in the roundtable, he repeated what he told his longtime friend and editor Walter Murch, that his intention with going to Argentina to shoot “Tetro” was “to learn how to make movies,” a renewed perspective on filmmaking that gives some context to recent interviews where he’s suggested there never should’ve been a sequel to “The Godfather” or that this is the start of “a second career.” Afterward, I got a few brief moments to talk to Coppola and Ehrenreich, who was said to have been discovered by Steven Spielberg at a bar mitzvah, about Coppola’s decision to self-distribute and why film is a still a young art form.

You’ve dipped your toe into self-distribution with the college tour for “Coda” and the re-release of “One From the Heart” — what was it about “Tetro” that made you think this was the way to go?

Francis Ford Coppola: It was really not so much about distribution. The film has only been finished for about four weeks — we finished it just before Cannes. I didn’t want to show it unfinished to distributors, and that’s a very naughty thing because they never want to see it together and you’ve got to show it to one first, then you can’t say you showed it to the other guy, and then if you show it to one first and they don’t take it, then everyone knows they didn’t take it. It’s just a nightmare to get involved. So I decided I would only show the film to distributors when it was finished and just go to Cannes and show it to everybody.

06102009_Tetro2.jpgBut what happens with independent films is they tend to release them at the end of the year because they feel they need action for prizes and things, which I don’t think they do. I think that’s already an old fashioned idea. I wanted the film to come out as soon after Cannes as possible in the spring, so I picked the date June 11th, which is my father’s birthday, and by doing that, obviously, there was no distributor, so we just started to book the theaters and had to make the web site and the poster and the trailer, so that’s what distribution is.

Also, I didn’t want the film to come out in November because if I did, then I’d be doing PR all year, which is what the distributor wants you to do. June 11th is good because there’s all the big summer pictures, there aren’t a lot of independent films out, so we maybe have a better chance, even with critics, that they would be able to not have to write a review every three hours and they’d be able to think about it.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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