Ford Coppola
US director Francis Ford Coppola (L) waves at fans as he leaves after the screening of the film "Megalopolis" at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 16, 2024 Image Credit: AFP

Francis Ford Coppola faces the press Friday after his epic "Megalopolis" sharply divided critics at the Cannes Film Festival, while Emma Stone and Richard Gere are set to light up the red carpet.

"Megalopolis" had been the most anticipated film of this year's festival. And the morning after its world premiere, the debate swirling around Coppola's decades-in-the-making passion project showed no sign of fading.

US reviews of the wildly ambitious and experimental movie from the 85-year-old director of "The Godfather" were largely enthusiastic, while some French outlets were markedly less positive.

Coppola - who faced similar controversy in 1979 with "Apocalypse Now", which went on to win the Cannes top prize Palme d'Or - will host a press conference about his latest creation on Friday afternoon.

Ford Coppola
US director Francis Ford Coppola poses for a selfie with fans as he leaves after the screening of the film "Megalopolis" at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 16, 2024. Image Credit: AFP

"Megalopolis" takes place in New Rome, a parallel and decayed version of modern-day New York filled with bacchanalian parties, crumbling ancient statues, and a Madison Square Garden that hosts chariot races and Greco-Roman wrestling bouts.

Adam Driver stars as Caesar Catalina, a cape-twirling and Nobel Prize-winning architect who is hell-bent on using his seemingly magical powers to rebuild the collapsing urban sprawl into a utopian and futuristic Garden of Eden.

The New Yorker called the film "madly captivating," and Deadline hailed its "sheer audacity."

In France, Le Monde described the film as "seriously disconcerting," while Telerama bluntly dubbed it a "catastrophe".

The movie - which Coppola self-funded to the tune of $120 million, in part by selling a stake in his California vineyard - earned both jeering boos and enthusiastic applause at press screenings attended by AFP on Thursday.

It is one of 22 films in competition for this year's Palme d'Or.

Should his film win over a jury led by "Barbie" director Greta Gerwig, Coppola would become the first ever triple winner of the Cannes festival's top prize.

Stone, Gere

Meanwhile on Friday, Emma Stone returns to the festival fresh from her Oscar win for "Poor Things" earlier this year.

She is once again reunited with its Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos for "Kinds of Kindness".

Stone stars in one of the film's three short stories, which also feature Willem Defoe and up-and-coming actors Margaret Qualley and Hunter Shafer, the transgender star of HBO hit "Euphoria".

An icon of 20th century Hollywood is also back on the Cote d'Azur, as Richard Gere stars in "Oh, Canada", reteaming him with Paul Schrader who directed him in cult drama "American Gigolo" more than 40 years ago.

Schrader, renowned for his "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull" scripts, has been on a late-career run in recent years, with a series of lauded tales about tough, damaged men.

His latest, partly inspired by a near-fatal bout of Covid-19, reportedly follows a dying man haunted by his past, including his decision to dodge the Vietnam War draft.

A new Hollywood heartthrob, Jacob Elordi - another "Euphoria" alumnus - stars as the younger version of Gere's character.

Still to come at this year's festival are a Donald Trump biopic, "The Apprentice", and new films from arthouse favourites David Cronenberg ("The Shrouds") and Italy's Paolo Sorrentino ("Parthenope").

Former Palme d'Or winner Jacques Audiard will present "Emilia Perez", billed as a musical about a Mexican cartel boss having a sex change, starring Selena Gomez.

Films that have already screened in competition to positive reviews include Andrea Arnold's fantastical childhood portrait "Bird", and bleak period drama "The Girl with the Needle".

Cannes runs until May 25, when the Palme d'Or winner will be unveiled.