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Francis Ford Coppola 5-Film Collection (Blu-ray Review)

17 Dec, 2012 By: Mike Clark

$39.99 Blu-ray.
Stars Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Vincent Gallo, Harrison Ford, Gene Hackman, Frederic Forrest, Raul Julia, Cindy Williams, John Cazale, Nastassja Kinski, Teri Garr.

As the definitive cross in the road regarding Francis Ford Coppola’s strange career, 1982’s One from the Heart had the makings of a cult movie even before it cemented that status by bringing in $389,249 over its opening weekend on an estimated then-whopping $27 million budget. All this for a 1982 movie shot in 1.33:1 and no marquee busters in its cast.

There are obviously other titles in this reasonably priced collection, and some super ones at that: Oscar-nominated The Conversation; both versions of Apocalypse Now (I’m one of those who prefers the later reworking); plus 2009’s Tetro, which is something of a visual marvel and, alas, the only one of the director’s recent pictures that I like even a little. All, however, have previously been available on Blu-ray, which means that Heart (which finally got a belated DVD release in 2011) is likely this assemblage’s chief selling point. In terms of the home market, Coppola’s career-denter has come a long way since, if memory serves, blast-from-the past RCA Columbia dribbled the film’s painstaking color schemes all over the place in the long ago VHS release.

If you’re a fan of the movie — and my ex-wife, for one, constantly strove to pound home its virtues to me — it’s likely over the kind of pigments you often only get by shooting on a set and going for that heavily stylized look you can only get when you’re controlling the light. I used to read all those stories about Michelangelo Antonioni painting the grass greener in Red Desert and can only surmise that a similar mindset was in operation here. The story’s setting is some of the more neon-ish parts of Las Vegas, which means that this is a case where artifice meets artifice. There’s definitely a kind of cotton candy appeal to all of this, though even with a dueting Crystal Gayle to soften him, putting Tom Waits on the soundtrack is pushing counterpoint to the max — in a way that was always likely going to attract the perverse cultists out there but have general audiences going “what-the-hell?”

Sometimes the wrong casting mix keeps you from even getting out of the gate. And here’s a story about a bickering longtime couple testing waters with other potential mates, where the principals end up being played by … Apocalypse Now’s Frederic Forrest, Teri Garr, Raul Julia and Nastassja Kinski, with subsidiary parts going to Lainie Kazan and Harry Dean Stanton. That’s just all too weird when played out against the Waits rasp — and this is even before Coppola takes only a matter of minutes to give us a shot of Forrest in his Jockeys, a little too much naturalism for the $27 million confection at hand. Another problem is Kinski, who on paper is well cast to play the next thing to an apparition (a tightrope walker) — yet was an actress who simply never registered on screen (even in Roman Polanski’s otherwise splendid Tess) despite efforts by a coterie of critics to huzzah her. If she had, her career would have been longer because she certainly had to the looks.

Still, Heart is such a one-of-a-kind (with fine-for-its-day sound mixing) that one has to give it some points, though the visual rendering here is less than ideal when what this oddball really deserves is some Criterion TLC. I never know what to expect, color-wise, on Lionsgate Blu-rays — though dazzling Amelie by itself shows what the company is capable of putting out there in the marketplace. Overall, though, this set may make some sense as a purchase for those who don’t have other titles individually, and with Heart, you do get some history. Coppola’s career was never quite the same after he was frequently forced to become a hired hand, though I have great affection for Tucker: The Man and His Dream and even the eccentricities of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Still, I have to wonder that had Heart not endured such catastrophic box office, I’d be enjoying his wine more weekends than not with my favorite lady.

About the Author: Mike Clark

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