23 July 2009 | amarcordforever
Francis Ford Coppola's: Tetro
For Francis Ford Coppola, the last forty years have been an uphill battle, not only with critics but also against an adoring public who have held him to the highest of standards since such masterpieces as "The Godfather" and "The Godfather: Part 2", both having brought home Best Picture Oscars and garnering best Director nods, the latter presenting him with the win. Films like "One from the Heart" and "Peggy Sue Got Married" make even his most hardcore of fans wonder, "What the hell is going through this guys freakin' skull?" Can directors truly lose their finesse? Can these just be metaphorical ruts like we've seen from the recent string of M. Night Shyamalan disasterpieces? What's the exact percentage ratio of wine from Coppola Vineyards that he consumes to that of which he produces? I digress. Now two years after the mediocre "Youth Without Youth", Coppola churns out "Tetro", a small little self authored Indy film that may just be the one he needs to regain credibility in the eyes of his audiences. The question is
does he pull it off? Bennie (Played by fresh face Alden Ehrenreich) has traveled to Buenos Aires to re-connect with his estranged brother (Vincent Gallo, Buffalo 66') who now goes by the name of "Tetro". Upon his arrival, he is greeted by the gorgeous Miranda (Mirabel Verdu), Tetro's girlfriend, who graciously invites him to stay at their home against Tetro's own reservations. It doesn't take long before Bennie begins to realize that his long lost brother is not the person he once was, but rather an on edge, manic and short tempered poet. "When I met him," says Miranda, "he said he was a writer. He held everything he ever wrote against his chest." As the story unfolds absolutely nothing is what it appears to be and when Bennie gets his hands on one of Tetro's unfinished plays, he finds out that the true story of his family holds secrets darker than he could have ever imagined.
Simply put, "Tetro" is Francis Ford Coppola's reinvention back into "quality" cinema and a perfect example of the wonder that can be achieved when a Director is in control of practically all creative aspects of his work. Don't be mistaken, if you're looking for the Coppola from the 70's, he's long gone. This new Coppola has been reborn, emerging as someone quite different. Funded entirely through revenue from his private vineyard, he's created one of the most stylistically atmospheric black and white films that I've seen in recent memory. One can't help but feel that there are heavy influences by the great Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini throughout, especially through the incorporation of operatic high drama and scenes that feel all too autobiographic to be dismissed as pure coincidence. In addition, there is a subtle Noir accent which is credited to Mihai Malaimare's gorgeous cinematography. Coppola is now, a true Indy, non-conformist filmmaker and my gut tells me that he really doesn't care. Instead, he doesn't give it all away, but rather does an exceptional job of keeping the motives, feelings and details about his characters well hidden for the longest possible duration of time until it is inevitable for such crucial facts to be revealed solely to aid the plot.
Mainstream audiences may just come to hate Tetro. It has an overall "artsy" coat to it that many of today's average moviegoers may not be able to get past. This includes extended, sporadically placed dance sequences from Powell and Pressburger's celluloid Opera "The Tales of Hoffmann" as well as original ballet numbers which are used to convey character emotions and cleverly emphasis certain themes. That said, foreign film aficionados, especially those of such Directors as Giuseppe Tornatore or Michael Radford, will be delighted with Coppola's knowledge of the Genre and passionate homage to those who have coined it. Through the script, he is precise and very careful with what he chooses to include as well as place importance on. With many scenes purely dialogue driven, he is a master of building tension without having to rely on the support of quick cutting, action or special effects to drive home his points.
Actor Vincent Gallo, in one of his first non-self Directed/self written films, fits comfortably into the role of Tetro. His narcissism (which I believe is in fact also grounded in his real life) brings life to the part and he's believable straight up to the films shocking conclusion. There is a certain vulnerability and a hurt that Gallo also manages to convey which is really what makes Tetro such an interesting character to watch on screen. Newcomer Alden Ehrenreich has a look matched by the likes of Leonardo DeCaprio, and certainly has the acting chops to pull it off. There is a definite star appeal about him that seems to emanate naturally which will certainly cause him to gain more roles and credibility as a performer in the future. Mirabel Verdu is absolutely stunning as Miranda and gives off a "Sophia Loren" type elegance, a role that rounds out the feeling that what we're experiencing is in part truly a charming foreign film coming out of what was once a mainstream filmmakers body.
Tetro is a testament to the fact that an artist can pick himself up over the course of decades and learn from his failures as well as his successes. Francis Ford Coppola's recent work is bold, daring and symbolizes his true love for the medium. At its heart you can see that the characters, story and attention to even the most minor of details are shown so much love and care that they could only be executed by a passionate and dedicated creative mind. My only regret after seeing Tetro is that more people will turn down the opportunity to open their eyes and experience it for themselves.