One From the Heart Reviews
In a contrast to his significantly more gritty material, One from the Heart moves Francis Ford Coppola into an entirely new area of filmmaking. His experiment did not pay off as it more or less single handily drove him into declaring bankruptcy three times in the 1980's. But the film is not one which deserves to have such a legacy. It is an inconsistent film, but it was certainly an enjoyable experience.
The most iconic aspect of One from the Heart is the visual style of the film. Defying the concept of shooting on location, One from the Heart does essentially everyuthing on a sound stage with a variety of sets as the basis for the setting. This is to influuence a sense of proscenium in the story which is fascinating to behold. The only problem is that it is not always easy to embrace. There are times in the film where I couldn't tell whether the story was set on an actual sound stage or intended to be set in what it was clearly simulating with artificiality. The most of the time I just presumed that the latter was true. But even with this sense of confusion, what I admired about the artificiality in One from the Heart was the sense of nostalgia it provided. With Francis Ford Coppola clearly embracing the artificiality of everything. One from the Heart ends up as a stylish film like no other with production design of a beautiful detail, manipulated further by the creatie use of lighting which evokes a sense of nightlife. It really is a treat for the eyes, and the cinematography follows it in a very classical style as does the musical score. Everything in One from the Heart contributes to making it a musical film which serves as an apprciatoin for classical cinema, and it is admirable to watch it happen. Unfortunately, due to the artificiality of the production design and the thin nature of the story, it seems like One from the Heart would succeed much better as a stage production than as a film. A stage adaptation of One from the Heart would be interesting because the proscenium would be more effective and the musical style of the film would be nonconventional which is appealing considering the fact that conventional musical films rarely ever do the right job for me. I wouldn't label One from the Heart a musical, but it openly admits its debt to musical cinema of the classical era by taking the style and revolutionising it, turning into a creative contemporary art for. In short, Francis Ford Coppola's stylish directorial work on One from the Heart is what really makes it soar and it is an interesting change of pace for him which makes it all the more of a shame that it bombed so heavily at box office.
The narrative portion of One from the Heart does evoke a mixed response though. The style in the film is largely a distraction from the thin premise. I'll admit that the clever experimentation worked as I lost sight of the thin plot many times while getting lost in the sense of magic that Francis Ford Coppola injects into the film, but there is no hiding from the fact that the story is a thin one. The characters are intriguing and it does have some intelligent moments, but the relationship between Hank and Frannie is only lightly touched upon. There was a lot more that could have been done with that, and the level of success it reaches is predicated based on th quality of the performances by Frederic Forrest and Terri Garr. Frankly, One from the Heart is the first in many films from Francis Ford Coppola which sported a style over substance approach to the films, and though it creates imperfect cinema, his passionately stylish direction on One from the Heart is honestly a wonderful thing which made it an enjoyable experience, and the music is the endeavour of the passion. I feel that the nostalgic and detailed production design deserves an Academy Award nomination for its creativity, and luckily enough Tom Waits' beautiful compositional work on the score did in fact get him nominated for an Oscar.
And to tie the characters into the themes of the film well thanks to powerful performances.
Teri Garr is the finest of the entire cast. With her sense of youthful charm and beauty, she just lights up the screen with her spirit. And with her diedication to the passionate nature of the character and her want to explore the magic of the world, she captures an ideal sense of spirit for the character. She makes a sympathetic role, and her interactions with the surrounding cast come so easily to her. Teri Garr's energetic spirit is a truly wonderful thing in One from the Heart, and her performance makes her the most likable character of all.
Frederic Forrest also does a nice job. Capturing his role with a sense of subtle grit and passion, Frederic Forrest defies the potential that the character had of descending into being a mere archetype and instead captures a somewhat likable character which also counters with his self-centered nature. All in all, he develops the character really well over the course of the story and shares a powerful chemistry with Teri Garr, meaning that the relationship they share ends up being fairly effective in the narrative, even if it does not precisely go that deep. His restrained performance is an effective effort.
So while One from the Heart is not so much of a treat on the mind, it makes up for it by blitzing the viewer's eyes and ears with a relentless sense of stylish passion from Francis Ford Coppola and Tom Waits as well as solid performances from Teri Garr and Frederic Forrest.
One from the Heart initially stuck in my head because of Sneak Previews, the original Siskel and Ebert movie review show back when it was on public television. My favorite section of the show was always the Dog of the Week, at the end, when each critic would highlight the worst film he'd seen that week. I got a lot of recommendations from the Dog of the Week. That, naturally, led to a year-end list of the ten worst movies of the year. If a movie showed up on the Ten Worst list, I was almost guaranteed a good time. One from the Heart was on Gene Siskel's ten worst list for 1982; if I recall correctly, it was #1. (Pretty much anything that made their lists from that year is gold; they also included Inchon, Pink Floyd: The Wall, and Halloween III.) But I'd never gotten a chance to see it until recently. While Coppola has always been an on-and-off director for me, I've found over the years that it's pretty hard to go wrong with Frederic Forrest, and with One from the Heart, Forrest gets a rare starring role. It's not the best movie in the world-certainly not in the same league as Forrest's other major 1982 film, Hammett-but it's certainly not one of 1982's worst movies.
Plot: Hank (Forrest) and Frannie (Tootsie's Teri Garr) have been living together for coming up on ten years. The two of them have settled into boredom and routine, and Frannie has had enough; she announces, on the eve of their fifth anniversary, that she's leaving. Hank puts up token resistance, but when it comes right down to it, he's more perturbed by the disturbing of the routine. Soon after, the two of them meet their dream mates in Ray (Tempest's Raul Julia) and Leila (Cat People's Nastassja Kinski), but Hank soon realizes that dream girl or no dream girl, Frannie is the one he really loves. What lengths is he willing to go to in order to get her back?
Read as a straight film, One from the Heart does indeed make very little sense. I hesitate to speculate on Coppola's mental state (or state of inebriation) at the time he was making this movie, but asking oneself "what was everyone involved in this movie smoking?" on a regular basis will not put you too many standard deviations away from the norm. On the other hand, if you read this as Coppola's attempt-and one should always remember that Coppola began his career in the Corman factory with the similarly off the wall Dementia 13 almost twenty years before this-to make a psychedelic musical, the way L. Q. Jones had tried to make a psychedelic science fiction film seven years before with A Boy and His Dog, One from the Heart starts making a little more sense. The plot's fuzziness, the somewhat puerile sense of humor on occasion, the sometimes silly decisions made by the characters. It all falls into place. That doesn't excuse the movie's shortcomings, but at least it allows you to have some fun with them. ** 1/2
The greatest achievement of FFCoppola is the way all the emotions, the drama, the character developpement, everything is communicated in the form, and thats why the story had to be simple as it is.
Not for everybody, but you must try it.