CoppolaFrancis Ford Coppola directing ‘Youth Without Youth,’ which premieres at the Clearview Thursday night in a benefit for the Monmouth County Arts Alliance.


WINE! It’s managed to play a part in the late careers of many a moviemaker — notably, Orson Welles as he shilled for Paul Masson in the days when he could barely get arrested for impersonating Falstaff.

But only Francis Ford Coppola has made the noble-rot nectar the fuel for what’s shaping up to be not simply a satisfying comeback, but a comeuppance for a Hollywood establishment that may have prematurely put the patriarch out to pasture.

Neither a gout-ridden Godfather in his garden nor a crazed Kurtz hunkered down in his compound, Coppola the larger-than-life artist is back from a self-imposed, decade-long exile. Flush with wealth from his acclaimed California vineyards and restaurants, he’s busily promoting his all-new, self-financed feature “Youth Without Youth” A favorite on the festival circuit, the Sony Pictures Classics release takes its red-carpet bow in Manhattan on
Friday night, but not before marking its world premiere screening at Red Bank’s own Clearview Cinemas on White Street tonight.

CastTim Roth and Alexandra Maria Lara play lovers bolted together by run-ins with lightning.

While no one has promised that the director or stars will be present at the 7p show — a fundraiser for the borough-based Monmouth County Arts Council — the premiere is the latest in a long line of special events
arranged by an industry player with a local connection.

Sony Classics president and Middletown resident Tom Bernard — whose wife, film editor Nena Danevic, is an honorary board member of the MCAC — has offered numerous films from the company’s release slate as sneak-preview fundraising vehicles for the council, and all in advance of their wider release schedules (Coppola’s film is due to open nationwide in January).

It’s a practice that started with “The Triplets of Belleville” a few years back, and has since seen such art-house hits as “Junebug,” “Laurel Canyon” and last year’s “Volver” make whistle-stops in Red Bank.

“Tom’s been great and very generous to us over the years,” busy MCAC executive director Mary Eileen Fouratt explains in the midst of an afternoon of board meetings, year-end summaries and preparations for January’s Juried Art Show at the Monmouth Museum. “He always gives us a heads-up when something becomes available, and thanks to Craig over at Clearview, we’re able to get these events together.”

The coming year is looking to be one of forward motion for the Arts Council, which in addition to its annual art shows — including the county Teen Arts Festival in March — is revamping its regularly published glossy magazine, and, according to executive director Fouratt, “expanding the teen arts connection online.”

A fantasy set in Romania on the eve of the second world war and featuring a largely no-star cast, “Youth Without Youth” presents the solid British character actor Tim Roth as an elderly professor of languages who, having been struck by lightning, becomes physically younger, smarter and, as the plot progresses, possessed of near-magical powers.

Throw in some gorgeous-looking cinematography and the ever-dependable Nazi menace, and you’ve got an intimate, quirky film which, while it’s been dividing and even confounding the reviewers, stands as something of an atonement for “Jack,” the dismal 1996 comedy in which Coppola directed Robin Williams as a 10-year old in an adult’s body.

Tonight’s screening is preceded by a reception to be held at Echo on Monmouth Street from 5:30 to 6:45p. Tickets for the film are $10 each and can be purchased at the Clearview door, or in advance from the Monmouth County Arts Council office at 107 Monmouth Street. Tickets for film and reception are $45 per person ($40 for MCAC members), available at the council headquarters before 4p.

Sony Classics returns to Clearview next Thursday with another MCAC fundraiser screening: “Persepolis,” the animated adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s autobio-graphic novels about growing up in (and growing out of) the Iranian revolution.

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