One From The Heart.
Directed By Francis Ford Coppola. 1982.
Starring Terri Garr, Frederic Forrest, Raul Julia, Natassja Kinski, Lainie Kazan, Harry Dean Stanton. 98 mins. Out on DVD for Studiocanal
Here I go again, having yet another attempt at trying to fall in love with Francis Ford Coppola’s flop musical One From The Heart. It won't work, it never does, but One From The Heart is a film you don't want to give up on, even though you know it can never really our between you.
It’s not the setbacks that kill you, it’s the successes. Having risked all his money on the chaotic, never ending production of Apocalypse Now and then seen it become a gigantic hit, he must have believed he could pull off anything. So a small project that was down to cost around $2 million ended up costing $26 million as Coppola decided to rebuild Las Vegas to his specification on his Zoetrope sound set and test out some new toys.
While the production expanded exponentially the plot remained slim. An ordinary couple, Forrest and Garr, break up over the 4th of July weekend, their heads turned by the exotic foreign charms of Kinski and Julia respectively. All the time an unseen Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle echo and comment on their feelings in song.
The film looks glorious but the notion of taking two unremarkable, everyday people and then putting them in a dazzling neon spotlight is only interesting in theory. Forrest’s Hank often seems like all the bright lights and commotion have woken him from a deep sleep. The pairing of Waits and Gayle on the soundtrack doesn’t ever really connect with the couple they are shadowing.
According to Wikipedia, One From The Heart ranks as the 57th biggest flop in American box office history. It bankrupted his Zoetrope studio and meant Coppola would spend more than a decade, often making horrible films, trying to clear his debts. It’s not a good film, it’s never as good as you want it to be, but it is hard to regret. The film was criticised for being cold, impersonal, “One from the Lab” which is totally misguided. It’s a folly of love. Nobody on the film stopped to think rationally, they followed their heart.
And the small moments when it works - Garr in a red dress walking away down a Vegas back street, Kinski whirling around in a cocktail glass, Waits and Gayle performing the title song – these moments are the very height of romance.