So Francis Ford Coppola is in this little film we’re watching about the life of Francis Ford Coppola, when all of a sudden he steps out of the footage, just like Jeff Daniels does in The Purple Rose Of Cairo. The film goes on, only now Mr. Coppola is narrating it while standing in front of the screen, and facing us -- “us” being maybe two hundred “Friends of The South Beach Wine & Food Festival” sitting in the Studio Theater in the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts.
Coppola tells us about his family, his films, and his wines. About his Mammarella line of pastas, sauces, and vinaigrettes, his Zoetrope: All Story literary magazine, his boutique vacation resort properties in Belize. A story here, a story there, a quick stir-fry of autobiography.
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And all the while Francis Ford is performing magic tricks. He extracts enormous wine bottles, and giant pencils, and skeletons, and rubber chickens, and everything you can imagine from a single wooden wine box. He pulls his entire Diamond Collection line of wine bottles from a single tin, like rabbits from a hat. He suspends a wine glass in the air, and coaxes corks and confetti to explode from wine bottles on cue. He makes a jar of hot sauce shoot fire (Francis Ford Coppola brand habañero sauce, of course).
The best trick: Mr. Coppola and his two assistants, who play varying roles clad in silly, slapdash costumes, keep popping in and out of the film that he is narrating. At one point he enters the black and white footage, at this moment of a large kitchen with many cooks, helps prepare some trays of antipasti in the movie, and then carries them from on screen, to off screen, and passes them out to us to eat.
Ladies and gentleman, I kid you not: Mr. Coppola, the goddamn Godfather of contemporary American cinema, performed an astonishingly physical and jaw-droppingly entertaining one man show last night, a non-stop interactive multi-media performance called "wine, daydreams & memories." In these days, when most everything is overhyped, this low-key event truly confounded expectations. For instance, before leaving my house I really did not expect that during this evening the legendary director would be walking around the room with a magnum of wine, singing aloud, and pouring my wife and I glasses of wine. But damned if that isn’t just what he did. My goodness, the man was so personable, so personal, and so funny, that it was easy not to dwell on how the real magic of the evening was that he managed to keep everyone absolutely enthralled through what was essentially a one hour commercial for Francis Ford Coppola and all of his products. Afterwards I went up to him and told him how surprising his performance was. “It’s amazing what you can do when you let go of your inhibitions” he said.
This was the first in a series of programs being put on by The Friends of South Beach Wine & Food Festival, which is a membership based fundraising initiative. Proceeds from the events go to support the students of FIU’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. I’m telling you, though: They will never top this one. --=Lee Klein