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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tetro Is A Great Return For Coppola

Tetro: 4 out of 5 Stars
Tetro: You stay away from me, got it?
Bennie: Whatever you say, Angie...
Tetro: Angie is dead. My name is Tetro.
A beautifully shot drama about two people struggling to remain a family. Fantastic cinematography accompanies this wonderfully personal film from director Francis Ford Coppola, who has crafted a film complete with great characters and a rich setting, and some dream sequences not withstanding.

The week of his 18th birthday, Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich), who's a waiter on a cruise ship, has a layover in Buenos Aires. He seeks out his older brother, Tetro (Vincent Gallo), whom he hasn't seen in years. Tetro, who lives with Miranda (Maribel Verdu), is a burned-out case; he's hot and cold toward his brother, introducing him as a "friend," refusing to talk about their family, telling Bennie not to tell Miranda who their father is. Thoughts of their father cast a shadow over both brothers. Who is he, and what past has Tetro left behind? Bennie finds pages of Tetro's unfinished novel, and he pushes both to know his own history and to become a part of his brother's life again.

Tetro: Why'd you find me?
Bennie: Everything I've loved or been interested in has been because of you. You disappeared, without even an explanation...
So this is in fact the first original film that Coppola has made since back in 1974, when he made The Conversation. I find Coppola to be a very interesting individual. Besides the 90s, where he was literally taking on films for the money (Jack), as his studio has had trouble, Coppola is one of the very few big name filmmakers who only makes films that he has a passion for and does so completely independently. He once again does so here, with a non-star name cast, little production values (besides some special effects for dreams), and a small scale and personal story. Despite the fact that the events occurring in this film didn't necessarily happen to him, its the kind of story that certainly reflects his state of mind in a sense, which becomes apparent in the story. (Hope that makes sense, essentially, Coppola has made a personal story out of non personal events).

Casting Vincent Gallo as the lead was an interesting choice, but despite his actual persona, his work as an actor is still very good. Gallo works wonderfully here, as the brother who has chosen to become a lost soul, within the confines of this story, which feels like a Greek tragedy. Eherenreich as Bennie is equally good, and Verdu (who I loved in Pan's Labyrinth) also brings skill to the proceedings.

The star of this film is really the cinematography by Mihai Malaimare Jr. who shoots the film is gorgeous black and white photography, within the land of Buenos Aires, and provides some richly colorful sequences via flashbacks and dreams. The photography in this film is truly great, but it certainly helps that the story is quite good as well.

As the film mainly deals with a family's struggle, the whole thing stretches on a bit without much being at stake here. It's deliberately paced, but still went on over 2 hours. This is a minor quibble however, as I was really drawn into this film do to its performances and the look especially.
Bennie: [referring to Tetro's play] So what was it about?
Tetro: Rivalry.
Bennie: You're writing the story of our father...

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