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« Stage Door: Michelle Williams in "Cabaret" | Main | Beauty Vs. Beast: Ladies of the Night »
Monday
Apr072014

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 (3)

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

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