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Category:    Home > Reviews > Musical > Drama > Romance > Comedy > One From The Heart (1982/Fantoma DVD Set)

One From The Heart (1982/Coppola/Fantoma DVD set)

Picture: B- Sound: B- Extras: B Film: B

Back in 1976, when Martin Scorsese shot New York, New York (reviewed elsewhere on this site), he wanted to produce the film in the 1.33 X 1 frame. To his disappointment, the kind of sets this required no longer existed, so he had to shoot the film in 1.66 X 1 instead. After the huge success of Apocalypse Now (1979), Francis Coppola decided to take $26 Million of his own 1981 money (so multiply that about four times as of this posting) so he could build the sets that could accommodate 1.33 X 1 shooting and the result was One From The Heart.

Scorsese's film was a great deconstruction of the Hollywood Musical, something continued by Herbert Ross in his adaptation of Dennis Potter's Pennies From Heaven (1981) with Steve Martin. Coppola wanted to deconstruct and reinvent the idea of the Musical at the same time. To mix music and image in a new way had already been done by Mike Nesmith in his fascinating Elephant Parts (also reviewed elsewhere on this site) and some experimenting in a non-Musical way had also taken place here and there. Though Musicals were not as common, Grease (1978, later issued in an amazing 4K edition since this review first posted) had been a huge enough box office hit to encourage more such films to be produced.

Here, the film focuses on the dysfunctional relationship of a couple (Frederic Forest, Teri Garr) that may have got on some critic's nerves, and that even Coppola struggled with to show to best effect. Either way, it is the impetus for their slow splitting off and involvement with others. He lands up with a sexy dancer/singer (Nastassia Kinski) and she a seductive, charismatic dancer (Raul Julia) on the 4th Of July. Not enough is made of the situation, but that is because Coppola is interested in doing a Musical that is only sometimes traditional. Otherwise, it is that animal we now know of as the soundtrack-driven non-musical, i.e., there is music that is usually non-diegetic (the characters cannot hear it) forwarding the narrative or (sadly more often) just filling in the dead space left by a lack of screenplay substance. One From The Heart fares better than later such films in the script department.

Obviously, in such a film that screams its artifice and has such amazing Dean Tavoularis production design is not interested in doing the same old storytelling. Character is sacrificed somewhat to bring this dreamlike world to life. The form is often amazing enough to keep the film going and this new 2003 cut works better than the original 1982 cut as Coppola has brought ht elements together better. Listening to Gene Kelly 21 years late helped. Having more time to think the dream through helped. Maybe some more adjustments could help, but this is basically as good as it is going to get and many elements seem to be more ahead of their time than even he could have expected.

Tom Waits, now also known as an actor, did the instrumental music and the vocal songs either solo or in duets. Coppola heard a duet he did with Bette Midler. She turned it down, and they got Crystal Gayle instead. In a great twist of luck, Midler went on to do sappy films for Disney, sappier records like the ever-obnoxious From A Distance and the problematic semi-Musical For The Boys. That 1991 film was a bomb and a far cry from the moderate success of Midler's The Rose (1979, with Forest of all people) when she still had a realism and credibility as a vocalist. Miss Gayle on the other hand is still a legend of Country Music who never sold out and has classics under her belt like Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue and Talking In Your Sleep. That change allowed the film to dodge the MTV look and sound, which enforces its otherworldliness, set in a Las Vegas that looks like a recent shopping mall design. It is the thought-out, controlled artifice of Hitchcock and quite an about-face from Coppola's previous works to the time.

Coppola hoped he had created a film so innovative and groundbreaking, that the ''Academy Aperture'' 1.33 X 1 frame would make a comeback. That was as bold as the film itself, which pulls on Coppola's amazing range of cinematic literacy and innovative ideas about media in general. However, the artifice might have just been too plastic for some. The other major problem with this approach was that TV, which was only just starting to go into decline, was 1.33 X 1 and MTV had just arrived. 1982 happened to be the classical golden year of the Music Video, with letterboxed videos a new novelty and almost unheard of in the newly growing home video market.

On the other hand, it is all the things that do work about the film that make it hold up much better than you would expect. For one thing, the look of the film was so visually above any Music Video due to the extraordinary set construction, production design and brilliant cinematography by Vittorio Storaro, A.S.C., A.I.C., that front and foremost updated the Classical Hollywood studio look with uncanny results. It looks like something from the early days of color film production, yet is something new and fresh. The camera depth achieved with forced perspective and intricate model and set design still far exceeds anything digital can come close to and in some ways will never touch. The film was pulled by Coppola after one week's release, but the set work was immediately bought by The Ladd Company for Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, which came out the same year with some more success. It still had its problems, but slowly became a hit through home video, something One From The Heart deserves now. Its influence on filmmaking is huge, but would not have been the same without Coppola's film.

The idea was to do something with the pace and feel of stage and live television with the technology available at the time. In some cases, he came up with some striking and stunning footage, which makes this one of the best-looking films of its time. The most expensive Music Videos still do not look or play as well, the decline of that form notwithstanding. Scorsese turned to the film on some visual level for his remarkable 1995 opus Casino, and Stanley Kubrick may have even been responding to the film in his final 1999 opus Eyes Wide Shut. The latter would be in respect to the way woman are shown realistically, something both filmmakers are known for, no matter what the controversy. That is something worth pursuing at a later date.

Though the film tries to be the opposite of his more serious 1970s work, that by no means indicates (or implicates) that this was a shallow, unchallenging work, but that it was trying to challenge on a new level of what could be produced, shown and what kind of new world could be created. Oddly, unlike most films set in Vegas where the city is made a character, this artificial version of it marginalizes the city in so many ways. Add the endless (and usually endlessly bad) digital work we see today and its Vegas become even more alien. However, no mater what the problems, One From The Heart ultimately works much more often than not and deserves rediscovery since his vision was more ahead of its time than he will ever get credit for.

The full frame 1.33 X 1 image was supervised by Storaro and except for some minor noise in some of the blue areas, is one of the better such presentations on DVD we have seen recently. Zoetrope did the DVD transfer itself, and even transformed recently as the ZAP Studio for DVD work, do some of the best work in the business. That brings us to the sound, which is only here in lossy Dolby Digital, but like Apocalypse Now Redux and The Virgin Suicides, One From The Heart has one of the best Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks we have heard to date.

I still would have liked DTS, but with the commentary and isolated Dolby 5.1 music track, the film's original sound has been updated to a 5.1 mix itself. At its original best, the film was issued in 70mm prints that centered the 1.33 X 1 image in the middle of the 2.20 X 1 70mm projection, something repeated on the D-VHS version of this film, which did the centering in its 1.78 X 1 ratio. The 70mm prints had 4.1 Dolby Magnetic Stereo tracks and though it seems a slight step backwards after the still-stunning 5.1 on Apocalypse Now back in 1979 (one of the first films to ever offer such sound, the first officially), the sound design is still unique and impressive, enough that anyone with a home theater system will want to give this one a spin. The upgrade to 5.1 made the 2003 theatrical re-release and plays well here.

For the record, the sound mix here comes from several soundmaster sources. Waits work was on both a 1-inch 8-track master and 2-inch 24-track master, while the 6-track Dolby Magnetic master for the 70mm copies were on a 35mm magnetic print was applied. As compared to many films form the time, though not exactly a soundtrack that is consistently impressive, it fares very well for its age. Another problem with such remasters is that the music is sometimes more obviously clean and clear than the dialogue and sound effects. The Waits songs might be too good in that they seem intrusive and annoying, but the rest of the sound is still very good for its age. It is also unique in its approach and for a film that often relies on dialogue, it has a unique design that is still interesting to hear and enjoy today.

Extras include a pullout essay by David Thomson, a big supporter of the film, inside the DVD case. This also has a statement by Coppola. There is an exceptional audio commentary by Coppola himself on DVD 1, then more on DVD 2. This includes the original 1982 trailer, the 2003 reissue trailer, stills gallery, two text essays on the film from the time of production, a brief video clip after the DVD Credits, videotaped rehearsals, deleted scenes, six alternate songs for the film by Tom Waits, press conference at the studio that is one of four pieces in the ''Found Objects'' section and four documentaries. They are The Electronic Cinema (at 9 minutes), The Dream Studio (28 minutes), a 14-minute piece on Waits music and an original 24 minutes-long Making Of on the film.

It is worth adding that the alternate version of Little Boy Blue worked better than the final version. Some of the Original Domestic Release Opening Sequence was also impressive. As for the critics, they were out to destroy this film from day one. Having been so successful in their frenzied attack on and destruction of Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate (1980) and certain political interest's intent to destroy creative filmmakers in general, One From The Heart or anything else that did not seem infantilized, airheaded and ''safe'' was attacked with the most poisonous venom.

There is an occurrence that happened once before that mirrors what happened to Coppola and the collapse of his Zoetrope Studios. Jacques Tati decided to go all out and invest a large chunk of his money to make a 70mm Comedy called Playtime in 1967. He also had a bunch of expensive sets built and this ''Tatiworld'' or ''Tatiland'' would, like Zoetrope, serve as a place filmmakers could come and make new films and be creative. Like Coppola, Tati watched his film bomb and himself also go into bankruptcy. Tati's sets were also dismantled, but his film was even more brilliant than One From The Heart and too has been recently restored. In both cases, each man struck out on his own and took the greatest risk of their careers. Both suffered the worse and Tati only shot one more film and two more features, so Coppola survived a bit better, even if some have criticized his Hollywood-for hire works.

Finishing the extras here, you can see that the media turned the production so much into a Coppola show where they were rooting for him to fail, that anything the film had to offer was lost. The film stands up on its own as soon as you start watching it and get into the relationships and issues the film delves into. Now that digital is catching up with Coppola, who has left United Artists and is no longer going to work for the studios, he says he still wants to make his epic Megaopolis. We can only hope it is as ahead of its time as One From The Heart often turned out to be and if it should be his last film (and certainly his last epic) that it further vindicates both One From The Heart and the legacy of one of the most important filmmakers of all time.

For more on the restoration and 4K upgrade of the film, try this link:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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