ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

JER'S TURN- FILM RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK: ONE FROM THE HEART

We want to thank everyone for checking out our blog! I hope you can see how we are trying to make this different than any other film/ movie blog site by looking at two very distinctive perceptions. Remember to check in every Wednesday for New Blog Posts! I, Jer, won the coin toss this week... so I get to elect the first blog topic follow-up. I choose RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK!

I can always go with the 'safe' films to recommend: "Raiders", "Lord of the Rings" and even "Star Wars"...but that would be way too easy and cheating you, the reader, of some great lesser known films. With that said, I'd like to kick it off with Francis Ford Coppola's 1982 film ONE FROM THE HEART!


There is a great 'story behind the story' to be told in regards...Coppola had basically lost himself, both physically and mentally, while making APOCALYPSE NOW a few years prior and wanted his next project to be a complete opposite. ONE FROM THE HEART is the romantic story of a Las Vegas couple (Teri Garr, Frederic Forrest) who, after five years, have a lover's spat that leads into a split. While apart, they both find romantic interests (Raul Julia, Natassia Kinski) but in the city of neon lights and fortunes made or lost at the throw of the dice...can they really walk away or place all the chips on the table for one more shot at their love?

Coppola had bought a studio in Hollywood and created his own production company he amptly named: Zoetrope Studios. ONE FOM THE HEART was one of a few 'experimental' films he made through his company that eventually led to bankruptcy through the early 80’s. Some of these films included THE OUTSIDERS and RUMBLE FISH. ONE FROM THE HEART was unique in that all of the exterior, including the famous Freemont Street and neighboring casinos in Las Vegas were meticulously recreated indoors and filmed entirely on the stages at Zoetrope. Financial support was not strong, which caused many construction delays and even pay- cuts for the cast and crew. Becoming a labor of love to reach completion, everyone agreed to a minimum salary and ONE FROM THE HEART was finally done! The film opened to lukewarm reviews and was a box office failure.

Through the eye of appreciation, the film offers so much visual candy to stare at…due to the excellent and striking Cinematography by Academy Award winner Vittorio Storano (THE LAST EMPEROR, LADYHAWKE) and the Academy Award nominated music by Tom Waits. The gravel-like, bourbon-fused vocals jazz up the film’s score with the sweet accompaniment of Crystal Gayle as well. The dialog between actors comes across very improvisational, but that may have been Coppola’s wish to ‘keeping it real’ between the movement of the story and the interaction of characters. Las Vegas comes alive throughout the film…to the point that you forget that it’s not really Vegas at all! This will be a hard find in most video stores, so you may want to check out Netflix or Amazon for a copy…This ONE is definitely worth a view!


JOHNNY CHAZZ: Being a long-time resident of Las Vegas, I am quite critical of any film that pertains to this city. What Coppola and his team did at Zoetrope studios was just phenomenal. To recreate such a city in respect to the colors, the sounds, the lights and especially the mood were ultra-impressive and probably saved the film. This, no way, overrates the cinematography in this film- a true work of art weaving in various hues, lights and creating photoplay within a picture. For Coppola to experiment in this fashion- or the fact that he took a chance at was in all likelihood, a real turn-off to audiences. As a side-bar, Kinski and Stanton would re-unite 2 years later in one of my all-time favorite films-“Paris, Texas.” Still, what is key here is Coppola taking a real gamble, rolling the dice and producing a combination that, in dire fashion, tries to keep that roll alive.

The jazzy and bluesy musical score (Waits/ Gayle) to this film works, but only to a point. The songs are fairly romantic and convey a sense of despair and loneliness. I can see people re-visiting this film, rushing to Amazon.com to purchase the soundtrack, but halt! There are flaws in the musical score to this film as there is nothing complex about the way they are written and many tunes are written in the same tonal scale, having similar timing and lacking any type of interpretation- or better yet, improvisation. I truly feel that the only reason this soundtrack works is that the film lies in the fact that the visuals on screen are what give the soundtrack a sense of style and substance.


Still, it is one thing to "look good" and to "sound good" (just take a look at your local salesman) but does this film provided the audience with real substance? Although the plot here is quite simple really - almost too thin… really requiring the audience to rely on strong performances to carry that plot. The screenplay is also weak and predictable. The casting for this film also seems to be a bit suspect: Maybe Teri Garr's cute and detectably sexy personae work here, but her performance here hardly jumps off the screen. Also, the "circus-like" caricature of N. Kinski was almost a spoof - and as striking as she is, and I am not too sure why or how this persona was developed for the role. Perhaps "innocence" and a "child-like" attitude was what the screenwriters were after, but this role truly needs a re-vamped style and a whole new look. Raul Julia may have been my favorite in the film. Still, his role was limited in this picture - and that is a shame. Frederic Forrest was well casted in his role and seemed to wear it well.

With "One From the Heart" we see Coppola intertwine Broadway theater with cinema which is blended in with the cool colors, the mirror effects, the dreamy sets and the various types of homage paid to the City of Sin. In sum, this is certainly nowhere near Coppola's best work, but I do respect any director willing to experiment with style and form. The film at its core lacks substance and the film knows that - thus, the visuals and the score inevitably become the focus of the film. If you want Vegas in its true mood and nostalgia - see "Leaving Las Vegas" or "Casino". If you want Coppola, go see any of the Godfathers, Apocalypse or The Conversation. If you want eye candy, then visit Netflix.com and type in "One from the Heart" in the search bar. *** PICTURE POINTS: 5.5/10

JER: I will agree with you that Coppola did a wonderful job in the homage paid to early television/ theatre in the film’s development, how it plays out and presents itself. I think that it was brilliantly executed…especially when Coppola’s approach to his script readings has always resembled the way that stage rehearsals are done. I also think you took this film heavier than it was intended to be taken as. True, this isn’t Coppola’s ‘best’ film…but it definitely was an achievement, when presented in an art-house format.

Therapeutically, this was made to free him of the horrors presented while filming APOCALYPSE NOW…the harsh weather conditions, the on-again off-again relationships with the local government to supply helicopters and such…plus, the fact that Martin Sheen suffered a heart-attack in the middle of production can only drive a man to the brink of insanity! It’s no wonder he needed a controlled, indoor environment like ONE FROM THE HEART.

The screenplay is what it is, but I think Coppola purposely intended improvised moments and freedom with the script. He trusted his actors and it lends a hand to the ‘experimentation’ process he was looking for. One more note…I think the soundtrack plays as an important character of the film…it’s both a narrator and accompaniment to the story that assists with the various moods that the film plays through…love, lust, curiosity and uncertainty.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: True - perhaps I did take the film a bit more "heavily" than I should have, as it really is nowhere near Coppola's finest work. An achievement? Yes, I will grant that. You also mention that the films "freed" Coppola of the harsh conditions during "Apocalypse", but the truth is that it is the film itself that we are studying here, not what the director was going through personally. And when you refer to the screenplay as "it is what it is" - then we really do see it for what it is...plain, simple, predictable, and resoundingly unimpressive. Still, it was an experiment for both Coppola and his fellow players and its own silly little way, well - I guess it works on a couple of levels. However, that is also to say that it does not work on a couple of levels. I will also agree with you that the music serves as a third main character in the film - but isn't that the case in 5,000 other movies? There is no way that I can refer to this score as being "brilliant" as the music - albeit appropriate for the film, remains relatively simplistic and a bit too dreamy. The "mood" conveyed by the set design (exteriors ever so more than interiors), the hues, the lighting, and the homage paid to retro-Las Vegas are what keep this picture somewhat intriguing. This is a classic "fairy tale" that we dove into this week Jer - and it was fun. Thus, audiences today should take a look at what you have recommended here as there are some real plusses in the film. On the flip side, the fun appears to be short-lived and borderline forgetful.

JER: Music is and will always be a vital piece to any film…if done right. The lyrics help with the character’s settings and moods. The one thing to keep in mind is that it is a “fairy tale” or a “fable” that takes place in the city of lights and illusions. Is Vegas real? Or is it all bulbs and showgirls…merely in place for our fantasies to be made into potential reality? If so, I never wanna leave!

As always…please give us your comments and opinions about what you think…what would you like to see us discuss? You can always catch a new blog entry weekly…until then…SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY ;)


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6 comments:

  1. I never saw this movie but you both make me want to go out an rent it. Jonny Chaz says to get it on Netflicks but do you think I could find this at my locale video store? I liked both of your comments about this movie and you both have a lot to say about it, both good and bad. Alyssa * Chula Vista

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  2. Hi Alyssa...I would say to please check your local video store, especially in larger cities like Chula Vista! I think that some bigger city stores offer a wider range of movies to please everyone's taste! If they do not have it...I recommend trying other alternative sources! Enjoy and chime in with what YOU thought of the film once you've seen it! Happy Movie Hunting!

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  3. I haven't seen the movie, but I am eager to see it now. Now Johnny, you comment that you were analyzing the film and not what the director was going through personally, but a true artist, as I see Coppola, uses his personal experiences for his art, otherwise it's not art. He is an artist first and formost and film is his canvas. Great critique guys!!

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  4. Jer: I am glad you are eager to want to see ONE FROM THE HEART and I agree with you on the artist's POV! There are certain Directors who capture the "art" of filmmaking. Others try too hard or just take a generic approach. The 70's and 80's provided the industry with a large sum of such artists(Spielberg, Scorcese, Coppola, Lynch, Cronenberg, Landis, Dante, Mann, Zemeckis, Kubrick...just to scratch the surface...) that know how to visualize and retain an artform when making films.

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  5. I actually read what both critics said here and liked what they had to say. @ anonymous above: Johnny Chez actually makes a pretty cool point because it IS the film that is being discussed and there is no excuse for flaws in a film just becuse the Director is going through things personally. As a critic, I think Johnny and Jerry are only trying to focus on the work of art and the quality of it. I like both of the critics style on this blog. So it is a cool site u guys, and good luck with it! (Gerald from Astoria, Oregon)

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  6. Thanks Gerald! JC and I see both points of view: boh yourself and "anonymous" above...we greatly appreaciate your words! You mentioned you are a critic...where can we find your work? Most interested...

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