The Path to Paradise: A Francis Ford Coppola Story

Harper. Nov. 2023. 384p. ISBN 9780063037847. $32.99. BIOG
Prolific entertainment writer Wasson (The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood) presents a stream-of-consciousness view of Francis Ford Coppola, his production company American Zoetrope, and his vision of filmmaking. This richly detailed biography is based on unprecedented access to Coppola’s archives and hundreds of interviews conducted with both the director/screenwriter and his coworkers. This book focuses on the ardors of making the 1979 Apocalypse Now, the trouble-plagued Vietnam War–set film based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The biography (the title was derived from a Dante quote relating hell and heaven) is an episodic, impressionistic, nonlinear challenge, even for those in the movie industry. It contains insights about the battles of an unfavored, albeit talented second son who was also a polio and bullying survivor. Readers seeking a straightforward narrative, rather than vignettes on Coppola and his entertainment-excelling family (actress sister Talia Shire; director daughter Sofia; actor nephew Nicolas Cage; and composer father Carmine) and those he met in Hollywood might consider looking elsewhere.
VERDICT This demanding book might appeal more to screenwriters and producers than to serendipitous consumers of film culture.
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