Call it clever and eye-catching -- or perhaps just shameless self-promotion. But you have to hand it to Francis Ford Coppola. In an era when marketers try to seamlessly and subliminally blend products into movies, Coppola would rather come out and just hit you over the head with a bottle -- literally.
Looking at the full-page ad for "Tetro" in today's Los Angeles Times, it's hard to tell who is the star of the film -- Vincent Gallo or a bottle of Coppola's Claret Diamond red wine. And that's just how "The Godfather" director wants it.
"In a way, everyone who buys a bottle of the wine is a participating producer of my movie," Coppola said in a phone interview from his home in Napa Valley, where the 70-year-old filmmaker lives and for years has operated wineries. "I wouldn't be able to make and finance personal independent films without having a very successful business behind me."
Coppola, a Hollywood outcast by choice, financed and is distributing "Tetro," a family drama starring Gallo and set in Buenos Aires that he filmed in black and white for under $15 million in Argentina on widescreen high-definition video. The movie is playing for a week in limited release in Los Angeles and New York and will expand next Friday into other cities including Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco.
It's just the kind of movie Holllywood studios would sneer at. And, that's just fine with Coppola: "There are very few independent distributors now and everyone is just looking to make money. This is an art film -- an exotic animal these days."
Coppola says "Tetro," which explores the complicated relationships and dynamics of a big creative family, is only semi-autobiographical. "Of course you raid your own life to put flesh on it, but the story never happened that way in my family," he noted.
The other thing that makes Coppola's hybrid movie-wine ad so eye-catching is the juxtaposition of the last name of the film's star and the bottle of Claret: Gallo. (No, Vincent Gallo is not related to Ernest and Julio, in case you were wondering!)
Coppola hopes that if his ad sells enough bottles of wine, he can expand the run of his movie even more than originally planned.
As for the uniqueness of his ad, the writer-director-producer said: "When you're paying the bills you can do what you want. Can you imagine if I had suggested an ad like this to a corporation? There would be 50 levels of meetings."
He has a point. Now, please pass the wine.
-- Claudia Eller
Photo Credit: Francis Ford Coppola by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images