Francis Ford Coppola’s downward spiral into self-indulgent bloatery is easily demonstrated by his own releases. The man who made The Godfather trilogy, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now against the odds, and seemingly by sheer force of personality, has not so much experienced a public fall from grace as much as an unspoken, hushed detour into uninspired nauseum. Like the old grandad who sits in the corner, not realising he’s repeating himself in his senile old age while everyone pretends that no, he’s fine and yes, his conversation is coherent, Coppola now makes awful films that don’t receive a wide release but do nothing to dent his auteur reputation, such was the strength of his early work. Can anyone name a decent Coppola film after Godfather III? Or in the twenty year gap between Apocalypse Now and Godfather III? Thought not. It seems like the process of making Apocalypse Now emasculated Coppola so completely that it took him twenty years to make The Godfather III, a film routinely mocked for being one of the worst sequels ever made (when, in fact, it isn’t actually that bad).
One from the Heart is an awful film and it’s going to get two stars out of ten – that’s where this review is going. Those two stars are for purely technical reasons – some interesting camera techniques, and curious aesthetic and editorial choices give the film occasional ‘huh-points’ – points where you go ‘huh’, between the endless tedium. The story is unimportant and only serves as a technical demonstration for Coppola’s cinematic imagination – a couple who always row break up and lose themselves in Las Vegas, but are never that far apart (physically nor emotionally), and maybe – just maybe – get back together in the end. Obviously.
The opening crane shot swoops impressively through a walking crowd into the window where one half of the annoying central couple – Frannie (Teri Garr) – is setting up a display in the travel agents where she works. This represents her desire to escape, you see. The other half – Hank (Frederic Forrest) – is a manly ultra-man who can’t understand why his gruff and patronising demeanour doesn’t force women to fall at his feet. They break up on the 4th of July and they both find partners at the same time – Frannie meets Ray – Raul Julia, more famous as Gomez Addams (unfortunately sans moustache) – and Hank meets Leila (Natassja Kinski), an unhappy gymnast. They go on various adventures and experience various experiences with these people but, really, we know that in the world of this type of movie they are always destined to fall back into each other’s annoying, un-watchable, insipid arms.
Your tolerance of this film should be gauged by your tolerance for saxophone solos, Tom Waits, and slow-motion scenes of longful gazes and ballroom dancing. If you find each of these things completely repulsive, you’ll find this film the very distillation of evil in the world. There’s no scene where this is more apparent than one in which Frannie slowly dances with Gomez Addams around a mythical smoky ballroom, only to erupt from the window of the very travel agents Frannie was decorating at the beginning of the film. What follows is the most embarrassingly stilted and mind-numbingly excruciating dance sequence ever captured on film, and one that I will no doubt take to the grave. Ultimately, this film serves no more purpose than to be an advert for Zoetrope Studios’ admittedly fantastic facilities, as shown in the final epilogue to the film which handily informs us that the film was ‘filmed entirely on the stages of Zoetrope Studios’ – a conceit that is no doubt trying to be theatrical but just ends up making the film into a long promotional video.