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USA 2011
Directed by
Francis Ford Coppola
88 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Since 2007’s Youth Without Youth, which marked his return to film-making after a ten year hiatus, Francis Ford Coppola has been making unapologetically personal films. This is very much so with Twixt, a film about a writer (Val Kilmer), a “bargain basement Stephen King” as he is described by Sheriff Bobby La Grange (Bruce Dern), struggling to regain his personal voice ( which might describe Coppola after 1997’s Jack) and carrying the burden of the death of his teenage daughter in a boating accident (Coppola’s son, Gio, died similarly in 1986). Re-teaming with Mihai Malaimare Jr who shot both Coppola’s previous film, Tetro and Youth Without YouthTwixt is a baroque amalgamation of Gothic horror, regional Americana and black comedy.

Kilmer plays hack author Hall Baltimore who arrives in the backwater town of Swann Valley on a book-signing tour. For want of a book-shop he sets up in the hardware store and sells one copy of his book to the local sheriff (Dern) who tries to interest him in the town’s surprisingly high rate of murders. one such case in point being in his makeshift morgue. At first the dismayed Baltimore intends to beat it out of town but the sheriff hooks him with the idea for a co-authored book that he hopes will get him out of a financial hole and on the way to artistic freedom.

For all its Gothic flourishes, in essence Twixt (heaven and hell? Imagination and reality?) is a portrait of the interplay between imagination and the real world in the creative process. Coppola deftly feeds the grisly real world of a small town mass killing seen through the ghoulish eyes of Sheriff La Grange into Baltimore’s strung-out, booze and pill-fueled imagination where Edgar Allen Poe (Ben Chaplin) helps him transubstantiate it into a work of fiction. Visually, the film is divided into naturalistic tonings for the everyday world and a ghostly, moonlit nightscape recalling Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, BAltimore seamlessyly transitioning between the two thanks to American Zoetrope's technical know-how,

Twixt is an uneven film (personally, I found Kilmer distracting even if his against-type casting was intriguing) but evenness is the death of so much American film and there is more of interest here than in a truckload of the latter.




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