I found it recently in an 81 year-old woman who refused to give up on her dream even when no one else believed she could succeed. She’s a woman who inspires me to believe that with perseverance you can achieving anything you want to accomplish. At 75 she got the inspiration to write, direct and produce her first ever feature film.
Not that she was new to the film industry; she’d made a number of documentaries and been the wife and mother of Academy award winning directors. She is Eleanor Coppolar.
She married the now famous Italian film director, Francis Coppola, over 54 years ago, and despite raising three children and supporting Francis throughout a lifetime of his creative endeavours, she managed to carve out for herself a career as a writer and documentary maker. She was a quiet observer and loved being behind the camera so documentaries were the obvious choice, so why decide to try and direct a feature film?
The inspiration for the film came, as many of the best stories do, from her real life experience. It was a great story but getting financial backing proved to be a major problem. She was a woman, a first time director, she was in her 70s and the story had no guns, violence, sex or superheroes. It took her six years to get the finance and cast together. It was a lesson in determination and belief in what you can accomplish. By the time the film debuted she was 81 years old. I wonder how many times over those six years she was tempted to give up?
“There were disappointments, but also surprises that were caused by the difficulties. All of these are things you learn when you just don’t give up. In your most desperate moments, you figure out how to be as creative as possible, it’s a part of the process.” Eleanor.
Eleanor calls the theme of the movie, an 'Ode to slow' ... a snapshot of the way southern Europeans celebrate life and food. And its not just savouring the taste and the presentation of food, but the opportunity for unhurried time for relationship around the table, something that had been quite foreign to her American way of life.
The story is set in Paris. Diane Lane (Anne) is an American, goal orientated and used to having a purpose for everything. Frenchman, Arnaud Viard, (Jacques) has a passion for being present in the moment and open to all of life, enjoying everything around him. The two go on what should be a seven-hour drive to Paris, which in reality takes several days, and along the way Jacques shows Anne how to be open and alive to life, spontaneous and receptive to the moment.
The story is a reminder that life run by timetables and calendars, achieving goals and success alone is an empty and exhausting way to live. The beauty of the moment is lost in the feverish race for achievement.
Eleanor, like Anne learnt that life is to be savoured, seen, tasted and enjoyed. While the film is lighthearted and romantic, for me it asked good questions, thought provoking and challenging ones. Eleanor inspires me to slow down and cherish the moments and to keep persevering even when I face all sorts of difficulties, even age.