Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis draws mixture of boos and applause at Cannes

Francis Ford Coppola’s 140-minute, self-financed magnum opus received a mixed reaction at its Cannes Film Festival premiere on Thursday (16 May).

The Godfather director’s new dystopian drama, Megalopolis, stars Adam Driver as Cesar Catilina, an architect-scientist who wants to better a fictional version of New York City called New Rome.

Journalists present at the screening reported booing from the audience after the film ended. However, the boos quickly turned to cheers when an “In Memoriam” segment proceeded to play for Coppola’s late wife Eleanor, World of Reel’s Jordan Ruimy reported.

The director and cast then received a seven-minute standing ovation.

“Thank you all so much. It is so impossible to find words to tell you how I feel,” Coppola said after the credits rolled, introducing his family members to the audience.

“But they were not the only family because all of these wonderful actors and folks were all my family. As Cesar [Driver’s character in the film] says, we’re all one family. You’re all my cousins. We are one. We are the human family. As you see at the end, that’s who we should pledge our allegiance to: our entire family and to this beautiful home, Earth, that we have.

“That is my wish. That it’s the children who are going to inherit this beautiful world from us. The most important word we have is the most beautiful word in any language: ‘esperanza.’ Hope. And that’s what I dedicate this to.”

Adam Driver (left) plays a ‘genius artist’ with ambitions to transform his city in Francis Ford Coppola’s dystopian drama (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Adam Driver (left) plays a ‘genius artist’ with ambitions to transform his city in Francis Ford Coppola’s dystopian drama (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Megalopolis has divided critics, debuting on the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 53 per cent at the time of writing.

New York Magazine’s Bilge Ebiri wrote that, at times, the film “feels like the fevered thoughts of a precocious child, driven and dazzled and maybe a little lost in all the possibilities of the world before him”.

At one moment during the film, an actor reportedly appeared on the Cannes stage, playing a journalist, speaking to Cesar on the screen as if he were at a press conference.

Megalopolis is set in an “imagined Modern America”, an official logline reads. “The City of New Rome must change, causing conflict between Cesar Catilina (Driver), a genius artist who seeks to leap into a utopian, idealistic future, and his opposition, Mayor Franklyn Cicero (Giancarlo Esposito), who remains committed to a regressive status quo, perpetuating greed, special interests, and partisan warfare.

“Torn between them is socialite Julia Cicero (Nathalie Emmanuel), the mayor’s daughter, whose love for Cesar has divided her loyalties, forcing her to discover what she truly believes humanity deserves.”

Adam Driver in ‘Megalopolis’ (Le Pacte)
Adam Driver in ‘Megalopolis’ (Le Pacte)

Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, Jon Voight, Laurence Fishburne, Talia Shire, Kathryn Hunter, Grace VanderWaal, Chloe Fineman, DB Sweeney and Dustin Hoffman also star.

In a recent analysis of Coppola’s work for The Independent, Geoffrey Macnab wrote about the director’s struggle to find funding for his latest work, which was produced over decades.

“It was as if the Hollywood executives were looking for payback for all those past occasions when Coppola had criticised their way of doing business, or when he had taken their money and produced a box-office turkey, such as the romantic musical One from the Heart (1981) or his car designer biopic Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988),” he wrote.

“The 85-year-old may have won multiple Oscars, but he is arguably as much an outsider now as when he was making his first exploitation pics for B-movie maestro Roger Corman in the early 1960s.”

Megalopolis does not yet have a release date.