Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1984. Zoetrope Studios, Producers Sales Organization, Totally Independent, Robert Evans Company. Story by William Kennedy, Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo, Screenplay by William Kennedy, Francis Ford Coppola, inspired by the pictorial history by Jim Haskins. Cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt. Produced by Robert Evans. Music by John Barry. Production Design by Richard Sylbert. Costume Design by Milena Canonero. Film Editing by Robert Q. Lovett, Barry Malkin. Academy Awards 1984. Golden Globe Awards 1984.
Only a filmmaker of Francis Ford Coppola’s skill could make such a mess of a film into something so enjoyable. The weakly plotted screenplay intends to tell of two sets of brothers, one white (Richard Gere, Nicolas Cage) and one black (Gregory Hines, Maurice Hines), though the story really focuses on Gere and Hines and their careers in music and not as much on their siblings. It takes place in the thirties, when Harlem’s Cotton Club was the center of New York nightlife, an endlessly hopping joint where African American musicians performed onstage but were not allowed to enter as guests. Gere romances a gangster moll (Diane Lane), Hines romances a singer (Lonette McKee), and the goings-on of the club with the owners and their business entanglements make up the rest of the experience. Coppola never really knows where to go with so many characters, but he wisely creates an eye-popping spectacle of lights and colours that is vivid and palpable. The music score is gorgeous, with hit songs coming at you from every angle to please the aural senses as effectively as the beautiful production design pleases the visual. McKee’s performance of ‘Ill Wind’ is especially memorable.