Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

One From The Heart (DVD)

One From The Heart was supposed to be the calm after the storm, not a storm itself. Coming off Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola decided to make a small-scale romance, throwing in some music to create something short, sweet, and life-affirming after the nightmare of his last movie. But some people just can't work small. Instead, Coppola bought a studio, christened it American Zoetrope (a name he'd used for previous ventures and continues to use today), filled its stages and a parking lot with sets that re-created Las Vegas, and tried to reinvent the way movies got made by pursuing a vision of "live cinema." The result was One From The Heart, and it bankrupted him. A film more scoffed at than seen, it became synonymous with failure years before Gigli. So why a deluxe two-disc reissue? Perhaps Coppola wants to make another case for the movie he never gave up on, but One From The Heart makes a surprisingly good case for itself. For starters, it makes the seemingly foolhardy idea of "live cinema," an attempt to combine the grandeur of film with the immediacy of live television, look vital. Its characters move through Las Vegas sets that do nothing to hide their artificiality, a fake version of a fake place super-sized to match the emotions at play. These come partly from leads Frederic Forrest and Teri Garr, who play a working-class couple in a relationship where the wheels still turn, even though the grooves have been worn down by the years. But the musical score by the salt-and-silk pairing of Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle drives the point home, as Garr and Forrest go about their dance of anger and reconciliation. As their eyes drift toward more romantic partners (Raul Julia and Nastassja Kinski), Vegas lights up around them; when they're feeling sad, the city sulks. Coppola choreographs it all to the millisecond, working closely with extraordinary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and production designer Dean Tavoularis to create a purely cinematic experience. If only they'd let a little more air in, One From The Heart might have been a truly great movie instead of a merely fascinating one. For all the care put into it, it never lives up to its title: It may come from the heart, but it stopped by the head for a while first. Coppola fills out the DVD with a commentary track, archival material, and several documentaries, the best being the warts-and-all The Dream Studio, which charts Zoetrope's quick ascendance and quicker decline. It looks like a shame that the ambitious studio faded so quickly, even while painting Coppola's overreaching as the seed of a destruction that left only One From The Heart behind. No one saw then, but maybe a few more will see it now. And maybe someday, someone will program it as a double feature with Moulin Rouge, and it will finally make more sense.


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