One From The Heart


Reviewed by: James Benefield

One From The Heart
"The performances are generally solid, the soundtrack and visuals wonderful and the ambition is vaulting, but it is ultimately a failed experiment."

This was the movie that almost killed Coppola's career in the Eighties. Costing, somewhat inexplicably, more than $20 million (an eye-wateringly significant sum for a film of this kind, at the time) it grossed less than a million. It didn't receive much critical love either. A story of adult relationships, told with plenty of music, and sometimes song and dance, critics and audiences alike found the story thin and its conceit a little confused. Looking at it now, there is something incredibly likeable about its, perhaps rather ill-advised, ambition to mix music, song, dance and character actors.

Hank (Frederic Forrest) and Frannie (Teri Garr) are planning to celebrate their anniversary with a romantic meal. However, Frank thinks he's cooking and Terri's dressed up to go out for dinner. A simple lack of communication turns into an argument and soon the two have split up and are seeing other people. Frannie starts seeing singer, and sometime waiter, Ray (Raul Julia), while Hank is seeing the resplendent Leila (Nastassja Kinski).

Copy picture

As for set-up, that's about it, bar the final 15 minutes. Picking up the script, this may well have looked like a small, independent movie. However, it's execution turns increasingly day-glo and hyper-real as the action moves forward. Central to the film is a giant musical number set on the streets of Vegas, in which Frannie and Ray make their way over and between cars, dancing as they go.

The encroaching surreality is heightened some more by a very specific aesthetic and a very stylised soundtrack. The movie was filmed mostly on a sound stage, and Coppola makes no effort to replicate reality; you can almost see the paint strokes on the scenery. But it does allow him the flexibility of creating intricate shots, making bold lighting choices and employing rapturous colour palettes. The soundtrack is also very specific yet couldn't be smoother; legendary oddball Tom Waits and jazz singer Crystal Gale combine to create an accessible, if idiosyncratic, collection of piano and brass heavy compositions.

When it was released, there would be something crazily alien about this, but now it looks like a forerunner to Moulin Rouge. In a sing-off between the two, Luhrmann's movie has the edge, but the juxtaposition of the ordinary and extraordinary here really is eye-catching. The performances are generally solid, the soundtrack and visuals wonderful and the ambition is vaulting, but it is ultimately a failed experiment. There isn't enough meat here, for this movie to truly work – with both the characters and plot being secondary to style.

But, as failed experiments go, it's up there with the most interesting, alongside 1941 and Heaven's Gate.

Reviewed on: 10 Nov 2011
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One From The Heart packshot
After a couple split up on their anniversary they find the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side.
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Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Writer: Armyan Bernstein, Francis Ford Coppola, Luana Anders

Starring: Frederic Forrest, Teri Garr, Raul Julia, Nastassja Kinski, Harry Dean Stanton

Year: 1981

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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La La Land
Moulin Rouge!