From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman
“Tetro” directed by Francis Ford Coppola
It’s impossible to approach Francis Ford Coppola’s “Tetro” without considering his checkered directorial past. It’s hard to fathom that the same man who made the masterpieces “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now” also helmed the turgid John Grisham adaptation “The Rainmaker” and the embarrassingly juvenile “Jack.”
One would be forgiven for thinking that “Tetro” was just the latest in a long line of questionable cinematic choices, but it’s apparent from the first shots of the film that Coppola is working within an entirely different idiom — certainly not the one that his brilliant ’70s work originated from, but a serious artist’s mind-set nonetheless.
“Tetro” stars Vincent Gallo (himself an actor-director whose considerable skill has been tainted by inconsistency) as the titular character, a volatile writer who’s holed up in a Buenos Aires, Argentina, apartment along with his girlfriend, Miranda (Maribel Verdu). His younger brother, Bennie (Aiden Ehrenreich), invades his life after more than a decade, and the two must come to grips with their fractured relationship and Tetro’s abandoned dreams.
Coppola’s undeniably personal script threatens to become bogged down in exposition and character backstories early on, but the film begins to thrive when it takes a turn into a heightened theatricality. Bennie and Tetro discuss their mutual love of Powell and Pressburger’s “The Tales of Hoffmann,” and the film pays homage to it with gorgeous ballet interludes and an increasingly operatic story sensibility.
With atmospheric black-and-white cinematography by Mihai Malaimare Jr. punctuated by color fantasy and flashback sequences, “Tetro” is often visually stunning, guided by the hand of a director who’s regained his cinematic voice.
DVD extras: A commentary track with Coppola and Ehrenreich; several featurettes on the film’s theatrical elements.