One from the Heart Melissa Anderson

Earnest pleasures remain lushly undiminished in Francis Ford Coppola’s new Reprise of the 1982 film starring Teri Garr.

Teri Garr as Frannie in One from the Heart. Courtesy Rialto Pictures.

One from the Heart: Reprise, directed by Francis Ford Coppola,
screening at Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, New York City,
June 5 and 6, 2024

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Every film made by Francis Ford Coppola in the 1970s was a critical triumph, if not a defining work of that decade; only one, The Conversation (1974), a smaller-scale study of surveillance and paranoia, failed to match the commercial success of his monumental productions The Godfather (1972), The Godfather Part II (1974), and Apocalypse Now (1979). But his first movie released after this illustrious run—the swoony reverie One from the Heart (1982), which was savaged by the press and a box-office bomb—dealt a severely damaging blow to the New Hollywood potentate. His work ever since, with rare exceptions, has been met with disappointing ticket sales and tepid-to-hostile notices by reviewers outdoing themselves with petty schadenfreude.

And yet Coppola, now eighty-five, has remained doggedly undeterred, as evidenced most recently by Megalopolis, his first feature since 2011 and one of the more hotly anticipated—and polarizing—competition titles at the recently concluded Cannes Film Festival. An epic about an architect with grandiose visions and the ability to stop time, the movie, largely financed by the director himself, had been a passion project of Coppola’s for forty-some years, but encountered the first of countless setbacks after the fiasco of One from the Heart. This week at Film Forum, that film maudit can be considered anew: Coppola, prone to adjusting his movies after their initial release—Apocalypse Now has circulated in three different “final” cuts, and a reworked version of his jazz saga The Cotton Club (1984) was presented as The Cotton Club Encore in 2019—has refashioned (adding some scenes here, trimming others there) his ’82 film, rechristening it as One from the Heart: Reprise. Having seen One from the Heart at least twice since 2011, I could detect none of the differences found in Reprise. The changes may be superficial; my ardor for the movie, in whichever version, remains unvarying and bone-deep.

Frederic Forrest as Hank in One from the Heart. Courtesy Rialto Pictures.

Although just one character sings (briefly), One from the Heart, which Coppola wrote with Armyan Bernstein, operates like a musical, evoking both the melancholy romanticism of Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and the lushly artificial sets of such MGM evergreens as Singin’ in the Rain (Gene Kelly was an uncredited choreography consultant on the film). The movie takes place during a Fourth of July weekend, in a warm-neon Las Vegas built entirely on the soundstages of the director’s Zoetrope Studios, founded in 1980 as an outgrowth of Coppola’s American Zoetrope as a haven for those who wished to work outside Hollywood’s risk-averse, financially meddling system. Though there’s little crooning on-screen, there’s plenty off it, courtesy the bluesy ballads written by Tom Waits and sung by him and Crystal Gayle, either as a duo or separately. The tracks chronicle the emotional highs and lows of Frannie (Teri Garr) and Hank (Frederic Forrest), who, in the film’s first act, split up after five years together largely owing to irreconcilable differences: she, a window dresser for the Paradise Travel Agency, dreams of voyages to faraway lands, while he, a mechanic and junkyard worker, prefers the comforts of home. They each seek out distraction in others—Frannie in Ray (Raul Julia), a waiter / aspiring pianist who suavely puts the make on her, and Hank in Leila (Nastassja Kinski), a circus performer.

Nastassja Kinski as Leila in One from the Heart. Courtesy Rialto Pictures.

One from the Heart was billed upon release as “a new kind of old-fashioned romance,” and part of the movie’s appeal lies in its treatment of the earnest question that motors the skeletal plot: What does it take to keep a couple together? (The query was not an abstract one for the director; as relayed by the jaunty film historian Sam Wasson in The Path to Paradise: A Francis Ford Coppola Story, published last year, the marriage between Coppola and his wife, Eleanor, was nearly undone by the toll exacted by the arduous, shambolic shoot for Apocalypse Now, filmed mostly in the Philippines.) The theme is explored with extravagant theatricality, starting with the spotlit blue curtains that open to signal the start of the film. After the credits, a crane shot reveals a stunningly fabricated Fremont Street, Sin City’s casino-glutted thoroughfare once known as “Glitter Gulch.” (Coppola regular Dean Tavoularis was the production designer.) The movie is bathed in primary colors and pastel hues: red, green, pink, lilac. Camera trickery and visual effects collapse space, so characters occupying different places appear as if they are sharing the same frame. Scale is distorted: an enormous Kinski smiles down on a lilliputian Forrest.

In pleasing contrast with this optical razzle-dazzle is the demotic speech of the characters, particularly the central pair. The unadorned dialogue of Frannie and Hank tethers this fantasia to firmer ground; their acrimonious exchanges accurately reflect the wobbly language of heat-of-the moment insults (“You used to have a pretty good build. . . . Now you’re startin’ to look like . . . an egg!” Frannie taunts her boyfriend). Forrest and Garr had each worked with Coppola before—they both have secondary parts in The Conversation, and he also appears in Apocalypse Now—but One from the Heart provides the added pleasure of seeing her as a lead, a rarity. (Tootsie, which also opened in ’82, features Garr in an emblematic supporting role as Sandy, who, much like the woman playing her, is a character actress who never quite gets the recognition she’s due.) Garr, who began her film career as a dancer in Elvis Presley vehicles, further buoys Coppola’s delectable movie with her vivacity—whether Frannie is tangoing with Ray, admiring her own physique in a mirror, or delivering my favorite line: “I wanna live . . . I wanna go out with a bunch of guys. I want erotic things to happen.”

Teri Garr as Frannie and Raul Julia as Ray in One from the Heart. Courtesy Rialto Pictures.

While Wasson’s book recounts the idyllic atmosphere at Zoetrope Studios in its early days, extending to the fervor for One from the Heart—one crew member recalled, “We thought we were making the best movie ever”—the script was a continual work in progress and the budget swelled by millions, the result of Coppola’s insistence on expanding the already lavish sets. With the auctioning off of Zoetrope Studios in 1984, one of Coppola’s dreams died. With each revival screening of One from the Heart, another dream is resurrected and proves inextinguishable.

Melissa Anderson is the film editor of 4Columns and the author of a monograph on David Lynch’s Inland Empire from Fireflies Press.

Earnest pleasures remain lushly undiminished in Francis Ford Coppola’s new Reprise of the 1982 film starring Teri Garr.
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