It’s been a decade since Francis Ford Coppola retreated from the film world to concentrate on a leisurely retirement and his famous (and rather good) California wine vineyards, but the five-time Academy Award winning sexagenarian has finally returned with what might be his most personal work to date, “Youth Without Youth” which is due in theaters in December 14.

After a couple of years of what seemed like work for hire (the loathsome “Jack”) and strong, but impersonal work (like 1997’s solid, but indistinct style, “The Rainmaker”), Coppola’s newest film is about, improbably, about a septuagenarian linguistics teacher (Tim Roth) who gets struck by lightning and becomes physically young – but retains his wisdom, memories and experiences (The film also stars Alexandra Maria Lara, who plays Annik Honoré in Anton Corbijn’s Joy Division film, “Control.”)

As ridiculous as that may sound from the outset, it’s not a wacky sci-fi and in fact Coppola’s aim was to tackle the film languages of “time and interior consciousness.”

When Coppola was struggling with his still unfinished and unfilmed screenplay for Megaloplis, he turned to a high school friend and now a professor with hopes that she could shed light on some of the similar concepts he was struggling with. She in turn sent him the novel, “Youth Without Youth” as it tackled similar themes. The book emboldened him and he immediately knew he could make it into a film.

The story touched my life,” he said. “Like its leading character, Dominic, I was tortured and stumped by my inability to complete an important work. At 66, I was frustrated. I hadn’t made a film in eight years. My businesses were thriving but my creative life was unfulfilled.”

Having seen his daughter become the toast of Cannes with “Lost In Translation,” Coppola became inspired by Sofia’s low-budget filmmaking and vowed to reclaim his glory days with the same approach. ““I wanted to make a movie the way a film student would,” Coppola told the New York Times.

In fact, a small modest indie career is what he claims he always wanted before that plan became derailed by the critical and commerical success of the “The Godfather” that launched him into director superstar status. “My dream is to have the career I wanted when I was 18,” he said. “When I started, I never thought I was going to be a successful Hollywood director. When I was young, I got to have the big career, and I’m hoping that now I can have the little one.”

At the very least Coppola sounds inspired. “I’m announcing a new phase where I make more personal films,” he told EW. Let’s hope this bold claim lasts and perhaps inspires fellow contemporary George Lucas to finally make good on his similar ‘personal films’ announcement.

Carmine and Francis Coppola – “Clean’s Funeral” (from “Apocalypse Now”)
“Youth Without Youth” trailer