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One From the Heart to Francis Ford Coppola

Glenn here. As Jason already established, today is Francis Ford Coppola's 75th birthday today. Talia's brother, Sofia and Roman's dad, Nicolas and Jason's uncle, and Gia's grandfather presides over a clearly very talented family that keep kicking artistic goals. We're only four months into this new year and Sofia has (apparently) been hired for her first big studio film, Jason Schwartzman has appeared on screen in indie box office hit The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Gia's directorial debut, Palo Alto, is about to hit cinema screens. What's Frances up to? Well the five-time Oscar winner is laying low it seems after none of his ultra-arty projects - Twixt, Youth Without Youth, Tetro - took off the way he likely expected his artistic return to.

It's then a perfect opportunity to dig a bit deeper into his extensive filmography and find something you've never seen. I know it's perhaps the smallest minority in cinema history, much to the derision of everyone I have admitted it to, but my personal favourite Coppola title is not any of The Godfather films, or The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, or even Bram Stoker's Dracula. No, rather, it's the man's 1982 musical oddity One from the Heart. Yes, the film that sent him bankrupt and forced him into a director-for-hire for two decades (pro: The Rainmaker; con: Jack) is actually my favourite. One of many weird, high-concept musical follies from the era that I unequivocally love more than I probably ought to. My love isn't some misguided contratianism, but rather One From the Heart just has many things that I love in movies: a knowing artificiality, a beautiful messiness, and Teri Garr. Who doesn't love Teri Garr?

Furthermore, I adore the way it's filmed, using sound stages and camera tricks while being co-photographed by the masterful Vittoro Storaro as if everyone's standing directly under a neon sign. And it must be said that the Oscar-nominated soundtrack by Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle is still a sublime piece of work to this day (I recommend "I Beg Your Pardon", which is basically what Coppola was left doing after the film flopped). While I can see the jagged edges and sloppy moments, I obviously can't quite fathom the negative reaction that it received. Arriving on the heels of Apocalypse Now didn't help, I guess, but the reaction must have been even harder for Coppola to take given the final product is undoubtedly the vision he intended. Watching this behind the scenes footage is rough, given he sounds so proud to be "moving out into interesting and unknown areas", as well as his pre-release response to claims that he was "reckless". Ouch.

I suspect many reacted very negatively against Coppola's somewhat experimental directing method on the picture, plus the subject matter that was not what people expected from a man like Francis Ford Coppola. It deliberately tries to blend the style of a backlot musicals with a modern acidity and cruelness that similarly rubbed people the wrong way on Martin Scorsese's 1977 masterpiece New York, New York. I guess these bold directorial feats just weren't what critics wanted from these men. Herbert Ross had his own attempt with Pennies from Heaven, and the critical/Oscar response to Barbra Streisand's Yentl is famous. Musicals really were just not the critics' choice then, yet could often be some of the cinematically invigorating movies of the time.

Have you dear readers seen One from the Heart? Am I mad for being so, well, madly in love over it?

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Reader Comments (7)

Like New York, New York, one of my favorites of the era. Sheer delight. And I totally wore out the soundtrack recording.

I have had so many heated discussions with friends of mine who hate these two movies but adore the Sondheims of this period (as do I)—Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along.

April 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Coppola was my FIRST favorite director, even if he may not be my favorite director anymore. His work in the 1970s is unrivaled. I first watched One from the Heart last summer as I was looking for a movie of his that I had yet to see. At first even I was a little turned off by the experimental feel of it and what seemed like a stock story. But I soon felt that this was very well made and a lot of love was poured into it. Since the summer, I remember the movie more fondly. The sets are incredible and the performances stick with you. I particularly love Fredric Forrest's scene at the airport near the end. I suppose this and Heaven's Gate were the last nails in the coffin of the American auteur movies that had become commonplace from 1965-1980, but this movie deserves some revisiting from critics and maybe a re-release for the younger crowds?

April 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSean Troutman

Yes I have and no you're not! The beautiful soundtrack, the cinematography, the cast ... it's really worth watching.

By the end of your article you mention a really good subject matter: why all those good musicals were so badly received? Was it a cultural thing or there was something else?

April 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I worked on this film, briefly...did some of the set dressing, and remember especially the Junk Yard set on stage, because after moving a metal rack of windshields, one of them Exploded as I was standing next to it! :)
This was Not a very memorable film...I was Not impressed with Coppola and his 'direction' style here...watching from his trailer outside the stage, giving 'direction' over a loudspeaker!
The casting was...strange. His 'vision'...well, the Budget speaks to that!
To this day, I have Not seen the film, but it is on my mind now, so I will have to correct that. I Do have a few photos that I took on the set, though. Time to put them online, I guess!

September 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Wayne

Bruce -- put them online right here at TFE :)

Peggy Sue - i think it was a cultural thing. since i grew up in the 80s it was death for musical fans. People just did not want them / respect them in the late 70s to late 90s unless they were animated. The only one that really survived this indifference or aggression against the form was All That Jazz. Even Little Shop of Horrors, which seems to be well-liked now, wasn't so much back then.

September 14, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

This is one of my all time favorite movies, easily making my top 10. I love the blend between stage and movie elements, and the soundtrack is superb. I also very much appreciated the risks the director took regardless of his stature but even more so because it was Coppola.

Aside from musicals having fallen out of fashion at that time (and I'm not a fan myself, although another top 10 favorite of mine is Fiddler on the Roof), I think that Coppola had been type-casted much in the way actors are type-casted. I can imagine many of his fans at the time feeling betrayed by the movie and thinking he'd become a sentimental fool.

Luckily for me, I stumbled across the movie on TV 10 years after it was produced and was fully mesmerized by the film. I immediately purchased the soundtrack.

September 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommentereClaire

One From The Heart is just one of the best films I've ever watched!!! I don't understand people who say "this is boring", "it has no plot" and things like that. IT DOESN'T NEED ANY PLOT! Don't they understand the magic in this film? I think they are blind...

Just take the main features, one by one:

- Coppola doing crazy intelligent things in his golden age (1972-1982)
- One of the most incredible and beautiful sets you'll ever see in a film (without the nasty, silly and superficial baroque things so typical in 2000 cinema).
- The most beautiful Nastassja Kinski.
- A really really great soundtract by Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle.
- Some of the best technicians in Hollywood (don't the One From The Heart lights and colours remind you of some 90's and 2000's films...?)

Now, put all this things well fit together, exactly where all of them have to be, in time, just like genious can do, and you get Corazonada (the nice name they gave it in Spain, the z pronnounced like "thin").


This is not theatre, it's not enough thinking like when you are at work, or watching a typical movie, you must have sensitiveness, this is REAL CINEMA, like 20's German cinema, like Battleship Pottemkin, like A Clockwork Orange, this is not some american guys saving (again) the universe against some bad aliens who come in an incredibly huge spaceship. This is poetry.

But maybe I'm overrating people's minds, sigh!

Anyway, a WONDERFUL film that will get the critics it deserve 50 years from now, and for sure, while the majority of the other films will be forgotten.

PD: Of course, of course, it has its flaws, but frankly my dear, I don't give a damn... =P Not all Battleship Potemkin is like the Odessa stairway scene...

December 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarco

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