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One From The Heart
November 2004 SITE MAP   SEARCH

One From The Heart
cast: Teri Garr, Frederic Forrest, Nastassja Kinski, Raul Julia, and Harry Dean Stanton

director: Francis Ford Coppola

107 minutes (15) 1982
widescreen ratio 16:9
Buena Vista DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Amy Harlib
In 1982, film director Francis Ford Coppola, already famous for helming Apocalypse Now, and psychically exhausted, desired to make his next project as different as possible. The result bankrupted his newly formed Zoetrope Studios because critics excoriated it and failed to understand it and audiences stayed away - not appreciating the intent and substance of One From The Heart, a romantic fable staged for maximum visual fantasy effect to paradoxically reveal the truth of emotions and the necessity for caring. 21 years later, restored, with a complete director's cut, One From The Heart's limited art house distribution before its video/DVD release in January 2005 should enable this production to find its audience.

Set in the contemporary Las Vegas of the day, the story concerns a salt-of-the-earth working class couple: Franny (Teri Garr in the best role of her too sparse career) who works in a travel agency and Hank (Frederic Forrest) who salvages old neon signs to create a miniature artistic zone in his backyard. On their 4th of July, fifth anniversary of their co-habitation, the pair somehow allow petty differences to escalate and to reach a seemingly irreconcilable crisis point. Franny and Hank separate and seek flings - she with Ray (Raul Julia), a glib and suave waiter who longs to be singer and him with Leila (Nastassja Kinski), a gamin yet alluring circus performer. The new duos briefly get to live out their fantasies only to find their experiences, founded in illusion, ultimately dissatisfying. That Franny and Hank reconcile is no spoiler. How it happens proves to be a witty, touching, heartfelt, charming delight.

Perfectly accompanying the story, Teddy Edwards' jazzy score, and original songs sung by Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle, set the moods even while they comment on and emphasise the intent of the dramatic scenes and the characters' dialogues. The tale itself unfolds on an elaborate fabrication of 1980s' Las Vegas, constructed on a sound stage, intentionally designed to highlight the artificiality of the background. Staged, lit and brilliantly photographed to create a theatrical ambiance, Coppola cleverly employs effects including scrims, false walls, mirrors, panoramic backdrops, matte paintings and superimpositions.

The visual result truly dazzles, with the exquisitely detailed yet at the same time obviously constructed sets creating a whimsical, even at times dream like atmosphere. This happens especially when the mundane at crucial moments, morphs back and forth (depicting the mental interior thought-scapes of the leading couple), into scenarios of yearning, and even of wish-fulfilment. The principal players all deliver excellent performances with Teri Garr's dancing skill impressive along with that of Nastassja Kinski. Frederic Forrest and Raul Julia convince with the earnestness and conviction they bring to their parts. Lainie Kazan as Franny's best friend Maggie and Harry Dean Stanton portraying Hank's buddy Moe, also stand out in supporting roles.

One From The Heart's stunning sets, excellent costuming, superb cinematography by Ronald Victor Garcia and Vittorio Storaro - its overall quirky, stylised presentation - was ahead of its time. The film's unique blend of the hyper-real with deliberate artifice befuddled critics and viewers two decades ago and ought to find its audience now for its celebration, in the midst of fantasy, of the reality of love and commitment to relationships, remains timeless and eternally relevant. Don't let the American 'R' rating for some tasteful nudity and mature themes to be off-putting, for Coppola's gem of a cinematic caprice deserves to find it way into the hearts of a vast audience.

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