Dear Francis Ford Coppola, dear Eleanor, dear friends,
It’s a GREAT honor and a pleasure for me to welcome you all at the residence of France in San Francisco for a very special occasion.
We are gathered here tonight to express the French government’s recognition of one of the most influential figures in American cinema, an outstanding artist, a San Francisco emblematic figure, a visionary.
This ceremony has one purpose : to thank you, Francis, on behalf of the French public for your contribution to the history of cinema, for the strength of your vision and of your passion.
You are part of a generation of artists who invented a new way to make movies, out of the classical system of the studio.
What were you sharing WITH YOUR FRIENDS ? Probably the idea that what is most important in filmmaking is independence, the possibility to build a film in the way you imagine it, without interference. This extraordinary moment in American film history is known as the “new Hollywood”, but I guess, AND FRANCIS I AM SURE YOU AGREE WITH ME, THAT it was CERTAINLY more new than Hollywood.
You brought independence to the highest level when you created American Zoetrope, which in a way was an island of Utopia, a place where everything had to be possible, a harbor for all the talented people who could nOt find their ways through the system, a laboratory of ideas.
Obviously this enterprise has not always been easy, but it was something of an American Dream, with its tough moments and amazing joys. And the generosity you put in this adventure created clearly a new model, and gave hope and desire to many filmmakers.
And we could say, with Humphrey Bogart at the end of the Maltese Falcon, that American Zoetrope has been “The stuff that dreams are made of”.
Dear Francis Ford Coppola,
Tonight, among all your friends who share so many memories with you - and let me acknowledge the presence of SOME OF THEM, Walter Murch, who has been a companion on so many films, and that of Saul Zaentz, another ‘’Fog City Maverick’’, AND HIS WIFE CHIKA, THOMAS SANCHEZ AND TOM LUDDY -, it would be too dificult for me to try to narrate your journey through American cinema.
Just let me stress how important your movies have been for the French audience. And I think the main reason for that is because all your films are dealing with the myths and legends of America.
What makes your films so powerful and visionary is the way you create a perpetual dialogue between reality and dreams, between history and myths. But your cinema, even when dealing with the most philosophical issues, with the question of power for instance, is never theoretical : you are a wonderful storyteller, and all your interrogations are brought to us through extraordinary characters, and with a very personal sense of narration and rhythm.
And we are all very curious to see your new film, the first in 10 years, that you shot in Romania, based on a Mircea Eliade short story, Youth without Youth. AND IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING THAT WE ARE EAGER TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE MOVIE THAT YOU ARE GOING TO START IN BUENOS AIRES WHERE YOU WILL BE HEADING FOR IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS
I can’t mention all your activities - the editing of “all story”, your literary publication, or your role as Honorary Consul of Belize that makes you a dear Colleague of mine…
But there is another aspect of your tireless activity that I would like to speak about tonight: it’s your place in the wine industry - and let me say hello to your neighborS in the Napa Valley, ROBERT AND Margret Mondavi who ARE here with us tonight, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR PRESENCE, Robert and Margrit Mondavi with whom you have probably been sharing the anxieties, the questions, the hopes of all winemakers who can’t control the climate.
As a filmmaker, you’ve been sometimes confronted to the rage of the elements : fire, rain, tempests, hurricanes... The wine industry has this same unpredictability, the same necessity to be patient. It’s a philosophy, and a perpetual challenge, and I guess you were the right man to deal with wine. You built what is one of the best wineries in Napa, and now in Sonoma too.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends,
Now let’s speak a little about France ! We know, dear Francis Coppola, that you are fond of our country, THAT YOU ARE A FRIEND OF OUR COUNTRY. You spent a lot of time between Paris and Versailles in the last few years, but I trust that you love it even more since you now have a French granddaughter, Romy, who was born in Paris last November AND WHO IS IN PROVENCE RIGHT NOW WITH HER SECOND GRANDFATHER !
You have a long business relationship FRENCH COMPANIES OPERATING IN THE FILM SECTOR, ESPECIALLY with Pathé,which helped financing and distributing many of your films since Apocalypse Now. And I heard that Pathé is still a partner on Youth without youth.
I would like also to remind the very important work that you did in producing and presenting a new version of Abel Gance’s Napoleon at the beginning of the eighties with a symphonic score composed by your father, CARMINE.
You also have a particular relationship to the Cannes Film Festival. This Festival honored you twice with the Palme d’Or, FIRST IN 1974, for The Conversation, THEN, of course, for Apocalypse Now in 1979. In 1986, you HAve been THE President of the Jury in Cannes and in 2001, the Festival presented Apocalypse Now Redux which integrated the dinner at the French Plantation with the wonderful FRENCH ACTRESS Aurore Clément, who met her husband, the production designer Dean Tavoularis, on the shooting of Apocalypse Now.
Speaking of Dean Tavoularis, one of your closest collaborators, I just want to remind that this summer the city of Montpellier presents a very important exhibition of his works, where many of the projects made for your films are displayed. At the same moment, the Musée Fabre of MontpelliEr, A MUSEUM WHICH IS A PARTNER OF THE FINE ARTS MUSEUMS OF SAN FRANCISCO, shows a very moving installation created by your wife, Eleanor, entitled ‘’Circle of Memory’’.
So in conclusion, dear Francis, I AM PROUD TO BE the interpreter of my country and of my compatriots and REaffirm that France admires you, for your contribution to the international cinema, for your generosity and your appetite to live and create, and for the celebration of an “art de vivre” that we all share, an “art de vivre” made of good food, OF COURSE, excellent wine, OBVIUOSLY, Pleasure of conversation, ALSO, and passion for art.
And the beret you’re wearing AT TIMES HERE AND THERE is probably part of this “art de vivre”, too.
Francis Ford Coppola, au nom du Président de la République, nous vous REMETTONS LES INSIGNES D’Officier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur.