Francis Ford Coppola Films — Tetro

Posted: August 17, 2010 in Danny Moltrasi, Film, Reviews
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[Reviewed by: Danny Maltrosi]

“I love you, brother.”

Tetro is Francis Ford Coppola’s first movie since The Conversation that he has written himself. It tells a story of a young eighteen year old who has come to visit his brother after he has been absent for a long time. Set in Buenos Aries, the film is mostly in a striking black and white, which manages to perfectly set the tone for the film. It is a beautifully shot film, that could have easily could have come from Coppola while he was in his pomp in the 70s, it is that good. It deals with issues close to Coppola, and something he perfected in The Godfather films, the tangled web of families. Tetro should not be missed.

The film starts with Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich) docking into Buenos Aries after the ship he works on has to dock in for about a week. Bennie shacks up with long lost brother, Tetro (Vincent Gallo) and his girlfriend Miranda (Maribel Verdu), but Tetro is not pleased about a part of the family he left behind returning. A series of secrets slowly unravels about the family, and are drawn into the family that descend from the Italian immigrant family, with the head of the family be a respect composer.

Coppola seems to have returned to top form here, and there is a lot of flashes of creativity that run throughout, and arguably shows exactly why he is rated among the greatest. Coppola uses black and white in this film, in such a beautiful way, that it does seem like we are watching it in colour anyway. The whites can be so white, and the blacks can be so black. It provides use with some beautiful images of Buenos Aries, and really imprints itself on the viewer. Co-in sided with this, is Coppola using colour for the flash black, which when first occurs comes as a shock, as the sudden burst of colour reminds us that we haven’t actually seen any yet. A perfect example of this contrast between colour and black and white is provided when Tetro is telling how his mother’s death came about, and we see the car crash in colour, with the flashing ambulance lights flashing on young Tertro’s face, then we get a sharp cut to black and white Tetro with the lights flashing on him again. It’s poignant to see, and very unsettling to see how these flashing lights still haunt him today, and goes some way to explain why today is now black and white. Although his past wasn’t always happy, it was still better than after his mother died. He also interestingly includes scenes of dance in order to tell the story, and it works well in the story, one which tells its story through a number of ways.

There is also a lot of using mirrors, shadows and TV screens to show people off camera, and capture everything in one shot. It is fantastic to see, as Coppola is clearly enjoying working out how he can get it all in. One striking use of this is during an argument between Bennie and Tetro, where the camera is focused on Bennie, but Tetro’s shadow looms over Bennie, and we can see his profile on the wall next to him. It perfectly raps up the mood and feel, as Tetro’s presence has constantly loomed large over Bennie.

Credit has to go out to both of the leads, Alden Ehrenreich and Vincent Gallo, who both put in fantastic performances in the two lead roles. Gallo as Tetro is a particular stand-out though, as he completely becomes Tetro. Apparently there was some questions asked of the casting of Gallo in the role, but Gallo has paid back Coppola’s faith with his performance.

Tetro is a film that stands out from a lot of other films around in recent years. It stands out for a number of reasons. It’s bold, has a director who isn’t frightened to try things, and tells a story that is obviously important to the writer. The emotion is there to be seen, and Coppola isn’t afraid to show it. His creativity is supported by some very good acting, specifically from , and it all adds to an extremely accomplished film. There may have been small bits that went on for too long, but these are only minor drawbacks. It is not a perfect film, but it gets very close.



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