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USA 1982
Directed by
Francis Ford Coppola
100 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

One From The Heart

This musical romance is a wonderfully-crafted paean to cinema as the stuff of dreams and an evocative soundtrack written by Tom Waits and performed by Waits and Crystal Gayle. Made entirely in Coppola's Zoetrope studio with stunning sets by Dean Tavourlis and cinematography by Vittorio Storaro and Ronald Garcia, Despite stylistically looking back to the artifice of 1930s musical romances, content-wise it has a quite realistic take on modern relationships as it explores the way in which as we move into middle age we wrestle with our unrealized dreams and the reality of life. It was a major flop at the box-office, critically scorned and it effectively bankrupted the director as an independent and marked the end of an until-then brilliant career. Colour me crazy, but I love it.

Written by Coppola and Armyan Bernstein, based on the latter's original story (it was Coppola who turned it into a musical) it tells of a couple of ordinary 30-ish Las Vegas schmucks, Hank and Frannie (Frederic Forrest and Teri Garr), having an argument and both seeking solace with new partners (he with Nastassia Kinski, she with Raul Julia) and waking up to the realization that dreams come and go but the dishes are always going to be there.

Despite the day-glo colours and razzamatzz, the film is a touching portrait of a relationship hitting a rough spot with Forrest and Garr particularly effective as the couple. Julia is perfect as the smooth piano man, simultaneously solicitous and predatory, whilst Lanie Kazan and Harry Dean Stanton both provide amusing minor characters. My only reservation is with the casting of Nastassia Kinski as the circus girl. Her European sensiblity is far too graceful to fit the part and during her sequences the film acquires an almost Fellini-esque quality recalling the presence of Guilietta Massina. Perhaps this is what Coppola was after but it doesn't suit the structure of the narrative which grows unsatisfyingly flossy in this section. A brassier character would have been more suited to Forrest's Hank.

The film was first foray by the visionary director into what he called "electronic cinema" which involved using computerized "pre-visualizations" in order to plot out how the shots would look before the film footage was developed so that changes and re-shoots could be done immediately. Coppola was well ahead of his time (he recreated the fiasco in fictional form in the 1988 biopic Tucker: The Man And His Dream) but the cost of the innovative technology plus the lavish sets was enormous and when no-one liked the result, Coppola was sunk. Ahead of its time, off-beat and charming in a low-key way it is a minor triumph from a master director.

  FYI: Coppola, who owned the negative, removed the film from circulation after its disastrous debut and only re-released it theatrically briefly in 2004 before giving it a DVD release.




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