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One From The Heart

One From the Heart on DVD

Francis Coppola bet big and lost big on what he envisioned as a small and intimate film that would also venture into new filmmaking territory.

It's a shame. One From the Heart is by no means a perfect film, but it's definitely a cinematic experience that should be seen. And we use the word "experience" deliberately. This is not a film with a mind expanding story, but rather it's a big and sprawling small film that takes the viewer on an emotional ride through love, lust, despair, anger and joy. To say the least.

Teri Garr is wonderful as Frannie, a Las Vegas travel agency owner whose five year relationship with Hank (Frederic Forrest) has had its share of ups and downs. When the movie opens, the two of them are planning to celebrate their anniversary, but through crossed wires had come to different conclusions about how they'd do it. This leads to an argument that, while not fatal to their relationship, brings it one step closer to its end.

That end happens very soon, and the couple unhappily splits up - though during this awkward transition they still share a house.

Then each of them meets a fantasy person, in her case an exotic latin lover (Raul Julia) and in his case an exotic circus perfomer (Nastassia Kinski). They couple for a night of wild abandon that in Frannie's case is an energetic night on the town and in Hank's is an introspective and intimate trip to his special private place.

Does true love win out in the end? Well, we won't tell you and since only about six people ever saw this flawed masterpiece on its intial release chances are you'll have to watch the movie to find out for yourself. And that's good; you should watch One From the Heart, if only to see how a creative genius can push the outside of the moviemaking envelope.

We were nearly exhausted, emotionally, by the time the credits rolled, Coppola does that good a job of guiding the audience. We laughed and cried for the characters and were dazzled by the craftsmanship.

The performances are terrific. Besides seeing Garr flex her dancing muscles (and boy, can she and Raul tango!), Forrest brings a nice human vulnerability to his role as Hank. This is no Chef a la Apocalypse Now, though one could argue that in many ways they're both "everyman."

Julia and Kinski are perfectly cast as the fantasy dates, bringing class and just enough exotica to their roles, and Harry Dean Stanton and Lainie Kazan turn in typically excellent work as Hank and Frannie's best friends.

This is a gorgeous movie! Filmed entirely on location inside Coppola's Zoetrope studio, the filmmakers have recreated the outdoor circus of downtown Las Vegas in all its gaudy glory (before "the Fremont Street Experience" came along), as well as other locations such as Frannie and Hank's home, their places of work, and even McCarran International airport. The chutzpah of doing all this indoors on soundstages is staggering, and the fact that, for the most part, they've pulled it off, is a tribute to their genius and hard work.

Oh sure, there are shots that look as if they were shot indoors, just as Brigadoon's Scottish highlands were also obviously done on a soundstage, but that doesn't get in the way of the fun, or the achievement. About the only shot that doesn't work is when Frannie's departing airplane flies over Hank's head near the end - and remember that this was accomplished in the days before digital filmmaking.

Which brings us to the analog filmmaking here. Coppola clearly saw the future, an age like today where high definition video is supplanting film as the movie maker's medium of choice. His friend George Lucas, a man known for expanding the boundaries of the state of the art, took twenty years to create his first all-digital production (Star Wars Episode II), but here's Francis, pulling off what today would be digital magic while still ensconced firmly in an analog world.

He used video monitors to keep an eye on the process before it was mainstream, perched in a trailer outside the studio that bristled with video equipment much like a TV production truck does when a network covers a sporting event.

But he did more than that. He also went back in time, or at least sideways in medium, to the theatrical world where the logistics of being encased inside a Proscenium Arch meant you couldn't go snazzy transitions such as dissolves and wipes - but where with a bit of creativity you could change scenes using translucent scrims and lighting effects.

It's all here, including Coppola's glorious transitions and marvelous filmmaking touches. The dazzling imagery sometimes is too much, as if Coppola couldn't decide when to stop, and so at times you're beaten over the head with the razzle dazzle, but it isn't enough to ruin your enjoyment of the film.

And one can't review One From the Heart without mentioning Tom Waits' outstanding score and vocals, complemented beautifully by Crystal Gayle.

We're so glad to see it finally given the DVD treatment - and they did a good job of it, too.

It's a two disc set that features over 6 hours of extras, and a new high-definition transfer in (alas!) the film's original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. We say alas only because our reference TV is widescreen and to fill the 16x9 TV you have to stretch/zoom the picture to fill it, lest you succumb to burn in over time. LCD TV owners don't have to worry about this, though.

That said, the picture quality is very good, with nice detail and, even more important, stunning color.

Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and it's very good, though we would have liked to hear a little more "oomph" to it; we had to crank it up more than usual to get a properly loud volume. Still, this flick is over 20 years old and analog, so we're willing to cut it a little slack.

Disc one also features a running commentary courtesy of the director himself, and it's quite interesting. There's also an isolated musical score track that's a wonderful addition.

Then, on disc two, you get plenty more meat, including lots of information on the innovative touches used in this groundbreaking film. First up is The Dream Studio: An inside look at Zoetrope Studios Hollywood, Coppola's studio launched in 1980. The Electronic Cinema reveals the groundbreaking ideas and inventions tried at Zoetrope for first time - some of which have now become common filmmaking techniques. There's also "Tom Waits and the Music of One From The Heart," an intimate portrait of the singer/songwriter, a "Making of" feature from its original era, as well as previously unreleased demo recordings and alternate takes of Tom Waits' music in 24-bit PCM stereo.

Disc two also shows up one mistake Coppola made: he changed the opening scene. The original is included in the deleted and alternate scenes section and though it isn't drastically different from the version on disc one, it gives a little more background to Frannie and Hank's relationship and sets up their split better.

You also get to see some videotaped rehearsals, a photo gallery and some rare footage from the Zoetrope vaults.

In all, a DVD tour de force for a very deserving movie that didn't deserve its fate.

One from the Heart, from Fantoma/American Zoetrope
98 min. full frame (1.33:1, not 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Frederic Forrest, Teri Garr, Raul Julia, Nastassia Kinski
Produced by Gray Frederickson and Fred Roos
Written by Armyan Bernstein and Francis Coppola, Directed by Francis Coppola


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