So here we are with Francis Ford Coppola’s first visit to Comic-Con since 1992, when he showed up with Dracula. This time, he was here with Val Kilmer, so the bar has certainly been raised. Coppola has been cooking up a genre film called Twixt, which used to be called Twixt Now and Sunrise and will likely be retitled as Tw’ or just a hand motion of some kind by the time of its theatrical release. It’s a seedy low-budget vampire tale, but there’s a twist, and it’s a twist I’m not sure even Coppola himself understands.
In my eight years of coming to Comic-Con, the Twixt panel was probably the nuttiest and most exciting thing I’ve seen, and I don’t know how else to articulate what just went down in Hall H other than to bring you through it as it happened.
11:45: Francis Ford Coppola takes the stage to thunderous applause, and is soon joined by Val Kilmer and Twixt composer / hipster demi-god Dan Deacon. He seems unexpectedly giddy for the guy who directed some of the heaviest films ever made (Apocalypse Now, Jack). He’s jazzed about the 3D glasses the audience was given, which are locked into the eyeholes of an Edgar Allen Poe mask. Coppola reveals his stance on 3D: “I’m in the camp that thinks the whole movie shouldn’t be in 3D, so you don’t have to wear the glasses and have a headache for the whole experience.”
11:51: Coppola is leading us through a brief history of 3D, arriving at his affection for Abel Gance’s 1927 three-screen masterpiece Napoleon. 6,000 people in Hall H are suddenly confronted with the horrible thought of the cinema before the rise of Kellan Lutz.
11:53: Coppola is animatedly demanding that Dan Deacon talk about Igor Stravinsky.
12:03: 10 minutes of Twixt footage wraps up. The clips play like a cross between Shane Black and William Castle (via the SyFy Channel), as we see a comfortably bloated and pony-tailed Hal Baltimore (Val Kilmer) arriving in a downbeat California town to pimp his latest low-rent horror novel. Baltimore learns that the town has recently experienced a rash of murders, and just like that he’s found the inspiration for his next novel. But then the dreams begin, something about a lusty young vampire named Flamingo and Elle Fanning as a deathly girl dressed in white with red cheeks and crooked teeth. The tone swerves from light comedy to tense horror in a way that recalls Mulholland Drive, and the last thing we see is Baltimore about to pull the morgue sheet off a fresh new corpse.
12:05: Hall H is kinda nonplussed. Coppola knows it. “I’d like to work on a bigger budget with the same economies,” he says, “I’m writing a new script that’s bigger, but I’m not sure how I’m going to finance this one. I’m getting old and I want to express some things on a slightly larger canvas.” There’s enough material on the dude’s suit to provide for a slightly larger canvas than that of Twixt.
12:07: “Cinema is barely 100. It’s a baby. It has more surprises up its sleeve than 3D and higher ticket prices.” Not sure where this is coming from, but it’s hard not to agree. Coppola continues: “All we have that’s vaguely alive are the concerts we go to, some theater, and sports... when those ladies were playing soccer my heart was in my mouth!” It seems as if Coppola might start listing the various things that have recently been in his mouth, but then things take an interesting turn...
12:09: “I’d like to go on tour for a month before Twixt opens and go to the cities and actually perform the film uniquely for each audience.” Um, what? Where did that come form? Did Kevin Smith actually revolutionize theatrical distribution?
12:10: Coppola is now poking at his iPad, mumbling something about “the future.” Watching this is starting to feel like a cinephile’s version of Resurrecting the Champ.
12:11: Coppola remembers that the other 5,999 people in the room have no idea what the hell is happening. He explains that a floppy-haired kid sitting to his left coded some software that allows him to essentially re-edit Twixt on the fly, and that he’s going to tour the country presenting a unique version of the film to each audience, tweaking it as he sees fit depending on how the crowd seems to be responding. Oooooohhhh. Wait, what?!?
12:15: Coppola cues up the beginning of the footage we’ve already seen, but now he’s performing a goth-rap song over it, chanting “Nosferatu” over and over and looping it into the soundtrack. I’m not sure why this is happening, but this is crazy catchy.
12:16: “Nosferatu” by DJ Fancy Francis (feat. Dan Deacon) is officially my new summer jam.
12:19: Coppola wants a mulligan. He restarts the footage while clicking around on his iPad, and we see that scenes play out differently than they had before. New takes pop up, the music cues are wildly different, sequences unfold in a different order, and yet it all hangs together. The tone is fluid, and the film comfortably assumes a different genre at Coppola’s discretion. Somehow, the film takes on a whole new form without undermining its dream-like narrative. Minds are blown.
12:28: Twixt’s liquid structure makes it feel as if it shares Inception’s interest in the geography of dream-states.
12:33: It seems as if Coppola has essentially melded movies with Mass Effect, as you’ve got branching paths that are somehow viewer-determined but creator-controlled.
12:36: “Hey guys, this is on the level! I actually had a dream where I met my leader in the forest: Edgar Allan Poe.” I’m not sure what level Coppola is on, but he might be alone up there.
12:40: Coppola seems like a kid in a candy store, a film-school student who would rather re-write the curriculum than graduate. He doesn’t seem at all jaded or burdened by his history in the business, just giddy with possibilities.
12:45: It’s clear that Twixt has gone from a dubious curiosity to the film event of the remaining year. The movie itself might be / probably is an unmoored bit of low-rent silliness from a guy who has done it all, but the prospect of experiencing it is as exciting as anything on the horizon.