Film Mavericks | Exploring the Work of Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola

Two iconic filmmakers have the lens turned on them in these in-depth examinations.

Devillard, Arnaud & others. Steven Spielberg, All the Films: The Story Behind Every Movie, Episode, and Short. Black Dog & Leventhal. Nov. 2023. 504p. ISBN 9780762483723. $60. FILM

Film journalists Devillard, Olivier Bousquet, and Nicolas Schaller present a detailed and photo-filled look at the career of Steven Spielberg, examining the origins, productions, and critical responses to all of the filmmaker’s projects through 2022’s The Fabelmans. Beginning with a short biography covering Spielberg’s early life and influences, the book delves, sometimes repetitively, into each of Spielberg’s films as well as episodes from series such as Night Gallery and Columbo, which Spielberg directed at the start of his career. The authors reveal the casting choices, technical wizardry, and sometimes convoluted writing processes that shaped Spielberg’s most iconic films, as well as the challenges—injuries, hurricanes, and malfunctioning robotic sharks among them—that plagued his productions. Their analyses of Spielberg’s projects, identifying oft-repeated themes of alienation, childhood trauma, and fractured families as echoes of Spielberg’s own life experiences, are thought-provoking if not entirely convincing in every case. Where Bousquet, Devillard, and Schaller truly excel is in drawing the attention of readers to hallmarks of Spielberg’s visual symbolism that they may have previously missed. VERDICT Despite some repetitiveness, this well-illustrated book is certain to appeal to admirers of Spielberg’s oeuvre.—Sara Shreve

Wasson, Sam. 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.—Frederick J. Augustyn Jr.

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