Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Movie a Day: One From the Heart (Francis Ford Coppola, 1982)

If only it were, you know?

Anyone, anyone, anyone who knows me knows that I love movies with a big heart and are willing to express it. I'll accept a LOT of flaws if a film can really make that heartfelt connection. The problem with One From the Heart is that there is very little heart in it. Coppola originally intended it to be a much smaller production, and I have to wonder if his ambition eventually eclipsed his intent.

There's a tendency with these sorts of films - big-budget love stories, that is - to try to create a universally relatable story by scrubbing away all specificity. The problem is that the more specific it is, there more carefully crafted the characters are, the more universal it will be. While it can be fun to latch onto a character who likes the same stuff or is driven to vaguely similar goals as you, it's actually more relieving to have a character who's likeable, but totally different from you, going through the same emotions you've felt, are feeling, or want to feel.

But even that's not the be-all and end-all. The Young Girls of Rochefort is totally empty in all respects but the heart. It's one of the most romantic movies ever made, in spite of characters lacking any depth or specificity. Instead, the cinematography, choreography, and music (what we film snobs would call the "mise-en-scene") creates a mood and spirit unlike anything else I've ever seen.

It felt a lot like Coppola was trying to create something similar here. It's not QUITE a musical, but it's close - the biggest problem is that there is nothing romantic about or between the two leads, and he's obviously trying to sell us on that. There's a lot of heart (and romance) after we see them break up and run off with other people, but eventually we're made to believe those don't matter, when in reality, those are the ONLY aspects of the film that feel like they matter at all.

If honesty is one of, if not the most important trait for a film to have (and one Coppola has had no problem with of late), then this film fails because it's intensely dishonest.

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