I saw Francis Ford Coppola’s new movie “TETRO” this past weekend. And I loved it.
It was an odd career trajectory. The guy was one of the greatest filmmakers alive, went a little nuts, made some decent but ultimately kind of middling movies (the rainmaker?!?), and then stopped really making movies all together. Sure he produced some crap in that interim, but he also produced his daughter’s movies, all of which happen to be rather good in varying degrees. And FFC finally came back to the director’s chair a few years ago with Youth Without Youth: A strange, cryptic, sometimes inaccessible, “film schooly”-type movie that I found interesting. There’s no particular flaw with the movie, on a thematic level it makes perfect sense and provokes or entertains a great deal of ideas, but there’s a big distance between the audience and the film. Which speaks to how well it performed.
In many ways, TETRO is the complete opposite. It was an stunningly raw movie. Sure it was polished with achingly beautiful black and white cinematography. But rather than cerebral concepts being the focus, instead it’s about family, brotherhood, fatherhood, and the nature of human relationships, love and cruelty. This is big bombastic stuff, and it’s all exposed through a very European sensibilty. Bertulucci, Fellini and Antonioni is all over this film. Especially Bertolucci. Hell you could have told me Bertolucci made it and I would have believed you. There is also another big influence of the recent Neuvo Wave (which perhaps informs the argentine setting and the casting of Maribel Verdu). The writer-actor-director Vincent Gallo plays the titualar charcter with, to use a key phrase again, a raw acting skill set. He lacks nuance, but makes up for it with a singular, focused presence. His low key, urbane accented speech could come across as “bad” to some, but I found it rather refreshing. Playing his girlfriend, Verdu is the absolute best part of the film,then again her role is that of a consilidator and she’s insatiably likable so it is hard not to love the performance.
But most people will be talking about Alden Ehrenreich. He’s a newcomer. Discovered by Speilberg. He looks a LOT like a young Leonardo Dicaprio (see picture on top left). And thankfully he’s great in this. He’s all useful innocence and mitigated charm, and subtle angst, and hopefullness and all that stuff that makes characters like these my favorite kind of main characters (coming of age stories I guess would be the designation).
And sure, TETRO is not perfect. There’s a lot of unfocused strings near the end, and a little heavy handedness in the finale, but all that is meaningless. In some ways it has to end the way it does, but more importantly the film is just a joy. If you like great movies with an heir of worldiness and some challenging form, definitely go see it.
And if that doesn’t convince you you get to see Maribel Verdu’s boobs.