“What happened to love thy neighbor?”, A Review of Copperhead (2013)

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History-based films always work the best when we can watch a particular story and relate to the characters, and then in our minds, just change a few things around, and all of a sudden, a movie set during a particular time period becomes very relevant to almost any era. This is what happens with Ron Maxwell’s Copperhead, a film so incredibly distanced from Gettysburg and Gods and Generals (both in content and style), in a sense that it takes the both-sides-are-right mentality and completely smashes it, instead, choosing to come right out and say that war is wrong, because no matter what side you are on, or what the result is, good people acting as mere pawns in a chess game for generals and politicians, will be killed and wounded regardless. The families and conflicts present in this movie could quite literally be anybody. Yes, they are dressed in 1860’s clothing and talk about far-gone politics, but switch a few items around, and the Beeches and Hagadorns (the two main families of this film) could be any, everyday people dealing with their children being sent off to fight in Vietnam, or perhaps more recent actions in the Middle East. It is a film that can reach out and touch us, bringing us into the history in a more intimate, down-to-earth way.

Copperhead does leave some to be desired, by way of certain actors needing more screen-time, and some characters who are not developed well-enough, but overall, this is a movie that people will be able to relate to and discuss, which is definitely very important for something so laden with politics. As has been said ad nauseum, this is nothing like Maxwell’s other Civil War movies, because the battleground is not of open fields and cannons, but of vitriolic politics, families divided, and homesteads being threatened by fire and rope. The civilian is an oft forgotten facet of all wars and their history, but thankfully this movie begins to show us that the men, women, and children far away from the battlefields were just as much warriors as the soldiers doing the fighting. All of this is helped along by the outstanding soundtrack by Laurent Eyquem, which contributes much to the feeling of the movie.

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Interview with Laurent Eyquem, Soundtrack Composer for “Copperhead”

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Every so often, I hear a score that transports me to another time and place, a piece of music that stands out from all of the rest. The music written by Laurent Eyquem for Copperhead fits that description. When I was invited to a private screening of the film back in December, before the picture was locked, I spoke with director Ron Maxwell before the show, and told him something that I had to think about with much deliberation: this melancholy yet uplifting soundtrack may be better than the one for Gods and Generals…it may have even surpassed Gettysburg. Ron smiled and noted that he loved the job Laurent did, and was very happy with the finished product. We both agreed on something else, and that was how kind and down-to-earth this composer was. Sometimes musicians can be very high-strung, or almost detached, but Laurent is as good a person as he is a musician. When I introduced myself to him via email before asking for an interview, he told me that he had already known of my work, because he had been following my blog for months, and even linked some articles on his website. We then conducted the interview below, which took place this past spring, and followed that with a lengthy conversation about films and music, and also about Copperhead, as he was curious to know my thoughts since I had seen the film already. It was a very fun and interesting afternoon.

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“Copperhead” Official Trailer and New Movie Poster Released

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Just this past week, the official trailer and updated poster for Ron Maxwell’s Copperhead, which will hit theaters on June 28th, was released, much to the excitement of fans, who have waited nearly 10 years for another Civil War film from the director of Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. The trailer, amongst fans, has generated a lot of discussion and rave reviews. Also garnering excitement is the new movie poster, which I must say is much better than the original, and really captures and essence and intensity of what this film is about—the American flag backdrop was totally necessary, to convey the point that even with all the strife and how this country was torn apart, we were all Americans in the end. It also includes the tagline, “Patriot to some. Traitor to others.”, which is central to the main character of Billy Campbell, as well as the entire Copperhead political movement as a whole, due to their anti-war feelings.

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Here’s to a Happy and Healthy 2013!

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I’ve always felt that the “fresh start” and “clean slate” as promised by the start of a new year was a bit cliched, but given all that has happened in the past year, especially here in the northeast, with so much damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, and most recently, the school shooting in Connecticut, there are many people in search of just that. I sincerely hope that all of those who had a disappointing 2012 will have a very happy and healthy 2013! There are so many wonderful people out there who have gotten the short end of the stick, and deserve much better.

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Thoughts After a Private Screening of “Copperhead”

Greg with "Copperhead" director Ron Maxwell.
Greg with “Copperhead” director Ron Maxwell.

I have just returned from the Broadway Screening Room, located in the Brill Building in New York City, after having been invited by director Ron Maxwell to a private showing of his film Copperhead, the last time it will be viewed before the picture is locked. I am very limited in what I can say about the film, but I will give you a few tidbits below. I am actually going to write my full review in the next few days and save it for the late May/early June 2013 release, since it is so fresh in my head. Before I get to some details, I just want to say it was great getting a chance to sit and chat with Ron for a few minutes before the film, and also to see actor Brian Mallon again, after we met in the summer of 2011 at the Gods and Generals Extended Director’s Cut world premiere in Virginia. However, in contrast to that film, and Maxwell’s other Civil War work Gettysburg, Copperhead is one that is going to stand alone in terms of films made about the War Between the States. Simply put, it is unlike any other made about the subject ever.

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ANNOUNCEMENT: “Copperhead” Soundtrack to be Scored by Laurent Eyquem

Laurent Eyquem (right) with music supervisor David Franco, working on the soundtrack of a 2011 film titled “Winnie”.

With every film comes the person that will compose its soundtrack, something I consider to be absolutely essential to a movie’s success, because it sets the tone and establishes the mood we are in throughout. There are only a select few movies that I consider my favorites that do not have a memorable score, so you can see how important the music is to me. The man who will be responsible for scoring Copperhead is Bordeaux, France-native Laurent Eyquem, who has 13 film credits as a composer to his name, all since 2008 (he has five that are in production as we speak, one of which is a WWII film about the USS Indianapolis). Finished works include Winnie (2011), where he worked with Copperhead Music Supervisor David Franco, and the popular French-Canadian film Three Seasons (2009). A classical pianist since the age of six, Eyquem has also been nominated for two awards, the Genie and Jutra, for best music for a film titled Mommy is at the Hairdresser’s (2008).

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