Francis Ford Coppola's return to film-making was met with mixed reactions, as the Rome Film Fest Saturday presented the world premiere of his Youth Without Youth, based on a novella by Mircea Eliade.

The packed press screening Saturday morning was followed by absolute
silence before a moderate applause slowly broke out, indicating the
audience's immediate reaction to the complex love story told in a
non-temporal time frame left them somewhat perplexed and unsure as to
what their immediate reaction should be.

Italian critical reaction was - expectedly - mixed.

Corriere della Sera critic Paolo Mereghetti was enthusiastic. 'It is a
film unlike anything else if you put it in the context of American
movies,' the critic told after the screening. 'I have
to say I was amazed by his capacity to gamble on the new and
unexpected and to do so with extraordinary power. I didn't expect him
to employ large philosophic themes to express what is essentially, a
great love story.'

In his review published in Sunday's edition of Corriere, Mereghetti
writes: 'The surprising and genial director has returned, and he has
(come back) with a film that is risky and unusual.'

Fabio Ferzetti from Italian daily Il Messaggero was not so convinced of
Coppola's latest endeavor.

'I am among the disillusioned,' Ferzetti told 'He was
able to say the same things in Dracula but with a more fantastic and
coherent language,' he said referring to the film's philosophy laden
context. He did however acknowledge Coppola's ability to employ
'naivete and youth' to the film's style.

In the press conference following the screening, Coppola was flanked
on stage by DOP Mihai Malaimare Jr, editor Walter Murch, and actors
Alexandra Maria Lara and Tim Roth. Coppola's wife Eleanor, daughter
Sofia, son Roman (who worked as second AD on the film), executive
producers Frank Roos and Anahid Nazarian as well as Italian
distributor and co-producer Valerio De Paolis of BIM were also in

Coppola appeared at ease, confident about his film and capable of
recognizing and confronting the issues surrounding what he calls a
'personal film' and a 'Twilight Zone-type fable.'

'I didn't want to be an entertainment director as I had been,' Coppola
explained. 'I thought, if I had the life of an older director when I
was young, maybe I can have the life of a younger director when I am
older, and that took me to the subject matter of Mircea Eliade and to
Youth Without Youth.'

Coppola also said his only wish was that people find his film interesting, and that he didn't expect an immediately positive critical reaction.

'People are just now deciding how they feel about Apocalypse Now,' he
said of the 1979 work.

'I wanted to make a film that you could see and totally understand the
story (of) and then later ruminate what the philosophy was. I didn't
want to make a film that was inaccessible. I wanted to make a film
that was beautifully photographed, with incredible music and fantastic
acting and you could just enjoy it for that, and later, if you wanted
to see it again, you could, because you no longer had to worry 'My
God - what is this crazy thing happening'''

During the presser, Coppola jokingly suggested that distributors allow
movie-goers a free second entrance to the film.

Italian film critic and trade journalist Marco Spagnoli asked Coppola
during the presser if he realized the film was risky and would
alienate audiences'

Coppola replied: 'Are you aware that when you make an unusual film or
a film that is not a copy of films that are made or are (already)
successful that it takes time for the public to decide if it was good
or bad'...When you venture into new territory, when you embrace an
author like (Mircea) Eliade you know it is different than Spiderman
and Shrek and other films that are immediately met with success. Part
of being an artist who wants to look in new areas knows that it will
take a while for people to become familiar with the film or perhaps
see it again I don't think artists can make films worried about what
the immediate reaction is - I only ask that you think my film was
interesting, beyond that you can decide later in the privacy of your
time but I think we should be tolerant of artists who want to break
new ground and not require them to make gangster films their entire
life,' Coppola said in reference to The Godfather films with which he
was launched into fame.

The press meeting was followed by a second encounter with the Coppola
family in which wife Eleanor's 65-minute documentary CODA: Thirty
Years Later, shot during their on-location time in Romania, and which
documented her husband's creative process during the filming of Youth
Without Youth, was presented.