“The cinema as we know it is falling apart,” says Francis Ford Coppola.
“It’s a period of incredible change,” says the director of “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now.” “We used to think of six, seven big film companies. Every one of them is under great stress now. Probably two or three will go out of business and the others will just make certain kind of films like ‘Harry Potter’ -- basically trying to make ‘Star Wars’ over and over again, because it’s a business.”
Coppola, 70, sporting a dark suit, is being interviewed in the Lebanese capital Beirut, where his latest movie “Tetro” opened the Beirut Film Festival after premiering at the Cannes Film Festival this year.
“Cinema is losing the public’s interest,” says Coppola, “because there is so much it has to compete with to get people’s time.”
The profusion of leisure activities; the availability of movies on copied DVD and on the Internet; and news becoming entertainment are reshaping the industry, he says. Companies have combined businesses as customers turn to cheap downloads rather than visit shops or movie theaters.
“I think the cinema is going to live off into something more related to a live performance in which the filmmaker is there, like the conductor of an opera used to be,” Coppola says. “Cinema can be interactive, every night it can be a little different.”
Sitting on a red velvet sofa, surrounded by stone statues of Greek figures in the lobby of the Albergo hotel, Coppola says he did not direct for a decade until 2007 when “Youth Without Youth” was released: He spent that period working on abortive projects and readjusting to changes in the film industry.
The director, who aside from his Californian winery has also been active in the publishing and hotel business, does not elaborate on future projects or say whether he plans to experiment in other industries.
“I don’t make a living anymore, I don’t have a job, I’m not trying to have a career, I’m not trying to be rich, I’m just trying to learn,” he says.
“Tetro”, which is based on an original screenplay, tells the story of a young man of Italian descent who sets off to Buenos Aires to reconnect with his long-lost older brother.
“I always hoped, even when I was younger, to do films that were original screenplays and more personal. My career changed a lot when I made ‘The Godfather’ because it became so successful,” Coppola says.
While the Godfather films scooped Oscars, he still has challenges in getting sponsors for some projects. He financed “Tetro” with revenue from his vineyard in California.
“Now, at this age, I’m doing what I wanted to do when I was 22,” Coppola says.
Coppola moves on to discuss Lebanon: “Beirut is the symbol of a sophisticated cosmopolitan city damaged by civil war and political differences but it’s very regenerative.”
The filmmaker also tells of his interest in Middle-East history and the “relation between east and west.” He is intrigued about the conflict between Iran’s ruling elites after the June’s re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad which led to days of mass protests.