“Everyone called me Francis on set. Don’t call me Mr. Coppola.” The American director, who returns to Cannes forty-five years after his Palme d’Or for Apocalypse Now, appeared on Friday in a light shirt in front of the journalists gathered for the Megalopolis press conference. His extraordinary work did not really appeal to French critics. Our journalist Éric Neuhoff speaks of a film “to sleep on your feet”, full of “starched tirades” in “ugly” settings…

He will not have been sensitive to the political message that Francis Ford Coppola wanted to convey. The filmmaker has transposed, he explained the day before on France 2, the history of ancient Rome into a “modern America” which is going through “the same vicissitudes”. “Like the way the Romans lost their Republic, we have reached a point in the United States where we could lose ours,” he said at a press conference on Friday.

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Faced with this danger, the director, who won two awards for Conversation Secrète (1974) and Apocalypse Now (1979), places little hope in political action. “I don’t know if politicians can provide an answer. I am not sure. It is now the role of artists, who must, like beacons, illuminate contemporary reality.”

A journalist questions him about the prospect of Donald Trump’s return to power. “There is a trend today in the world that is pushing towards the extreme right and even fascism. Those who experienced the Second World War know the horrors of that time, and we don’t want that to happen again. I think it’s the role of artists, especially directors, to highlight what’s happening.”

How did he approach this monster feature film? “I knew that the film was different from the films we see today, that there were no elements of comparison to which I could have referred. I made the film as I wanted, I financed it myself (…)”

“When people are on the verge of death, they say to themselves: ‘I wish I had done this, that.’ I can say that I did what I wanted. I will also be thinking about what I will continue to do and will not even be able to realize that I am dying,” he jokes.

We ask him if he will be required to set up Megalopolis differently in the future. If he will make adjustments to it, as he did for The Godfather 3. “When Catherine de Medici became queen of France, she was accompanied by Leonardo da Vinci, who came with only one of her works, unfinished. It was the Mona Lisa. If I can improve the film, I will. But I know that this project is finished, I have started to write a new one”, announces the one who promises, with a little humor, to “still be there in twenty years”.

The Hollywood studios may no longer be. He fears their disappearance and regrets their productions, which are more often intended, according to him, to erase their debts than to create works. “Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, on the other hand, these companies have a lot of money.” Will Francis Ford Coppola, like his colleague Martin Scorsese, give in to the call of the platforms for his next project? A sign of its uncertain commercial potential, Megalopolis, produced outside the circuits of the major studios, has not yet found a distributor in the United States.

The 85-year-old director does not intend, in any case, to stop there. It was his sister Talia Shire who said so. The actress, who played in The Godfather and is in the cast of Megapolis alongside Jon Voight, Adam Driver and Laurence Fishburne, praises him at a press conference. “He has the courage to create, to force us to move forward (…) He was a visionary already at the age of 9, he had polio and forced himself to learn to walk again.”