Before we present the New York premiere of a new 4K restoration of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rain People this weekend at NYC’s Roxy Cinema, it seemed germane to point towards this early meeting of two old friends (just before they changed Hollywood forever). In 1968 the enterprising experimental filmmaker George Lucas followed The Rain People‘s production across America, documenting the practical, grinding realities of film and stresses upon its artists, in the process finding a young, prodigiously talented director making his first pushes against an industry that––some things never change!––doesn’t attract, as he’d put it, “some of the most interesting guys.” The resulting work was Filmmaker: a diary by george lucas, which Coppola would suggest is superior to his own feature, and served as the first title copyrighted under either’s companies, American Zoetrope and Lucasfilm.
To which degree this could only anticipate Hearts of Darkness: while an obviously smaller production and naturally prone to fewer difficulties, The Rain People already finds Coppola dreaming on a bigger scale than his contemporaries. Whether those dreams are shaped through pure effort or brutal honesty (admitting his previous feature You’re a Big Boy Now isn’t as good as this, which still boasts its flaws)––and still engendered conflict, as an argument with lead actress Shirley Knight demonstrates––the director’s early works are not some “apprentice” effort or test run, and next weekend’s showings are an opportunity to shed light on a film so rarely mentioned in his canon.
Watch the documentary below (with a bonus video after), and get tickets for The Rain People, playing alongside a 35mm print of Rio Bravo from July 28-30 only at NYC’s Roxy Cinema: