As an avid fan of Francis Ford Coppola's work, this was an easy decision for me to read this. I've read a few other books on Coppola and his life, so I wasn't sure if this volume could bring anything new to the table. It does.
The main difference between this biography on Coppola and others that I have read, such as "Francis Ford Coppola a Filmmakers Life," by Michael Schumacher is that the author spent a great deal of time interviewing Coppola himself and getting his perspective on the various aspects of his films and businesses rather than relying strictly on others' accounts, i.e. articles, etc. The other difference, is that this is mainly an analysis of Coppola's films, rather than his life. I was happy to see that this was the case, as I felt that this was lacking in other books about the famous filmmaker.
For the most part, the narrative is told in a straight timeline. There are exceptions, however. Certain films are grouped together into one chapter that were made at different points in Coppola's career. For example, One chapter focuses on The Conversation, which was made between the first two Godfather films. The chapter is then followed by a chapter on all three Godfather films, which were obviously made at very different points in Coppola's life. At first I found this a little annoying, as events that had happened are referred to in these early chapters, but not explained until the later chapters when Coppola was making other films. You get used to it as the book progresses and by the end I decided that I liked the feature. I especially liked the chapter that dealt with Apocalypse Now and Gardens of Stone and compared/contrasted the two films. Completely different films with different themes against the same background, and how the events of Coppola's life at the time the films were made (10 years apart) affected the outcome of the movie made for an interesting read.
The book is well written. I didn't sense any padding that often comes with these types of books, the author is straightforward, and gets to his points quickly. A detailed synopsis is provided for each film, and metaphors and important scenes are analyzed. I found this refreshing as it gave some new perspective that I hadn't picked up from other works before. After reading the synopsis/analyzation on The Conversation, I decided to go back and watch the film again and was pleasantly surprised to find things I hadn't seen before when I viewed it with Mr. Phillips' perspective in mind.
If I have one gripe with the work, it is this: the author seems to write with a worshipful tone towards Coppola. While making valid points regarding some of the raw deals that Coppola had and his obvious talent, some of the darker, more unpleasant parts of Coppola's life are mentioned and simply glossed over (his extra-marital affair during Apocalypse Now, for example).
The photos included are nice, but nothing to get excited about. If you have studied Coppola's films or the man himself, there is nothing you haven't seen before. A few more "never before seen" photos would have been nice. Since the author obviously spent a lot of time with Coppola for this book, maybe he could've gotten some more from the director's personal collection?
I recommend this book if you are interested in the process of what a filmmaker goes through during the making of a film. If you are a fan of Coppola's films, it is a must read. If you are interested in an in-depth biography of Coppola's life, I would recommend the above mentioned title instead. This is more film analysis than biography.