One from the Heart: Reprise 4K UHD Review: Coppola’s Folly Redeemed?

After the Godfather films, Francis Ford Coppola went from disaster to disaster. Apocalypse Now is the famous problematic film… but it made money. The real collapse came from One from the Heart. Coppola wanted to make a modern musical. He had a $2 million budget. He spent $25 million.

The movie made about $600,000 at the box office. That is a real disaster.

And it’s one that could be expected, because One from the Heart is a gorgeous, sumptuous production of an art house movie. It’s the most meticulously produced movie for a tiny, perhaps non-existent audience that has ever been made.

Buy One from the Heart: Reprise 4K UHD

The story is about a Las Vegas couple on the outs. Frannie, (Teri Garr) does display windows for a travel agency. These displays are her fantasies. Hank (Frederic Forrest) is a mechanic, and he wants to set down roots. Their five-year anniversary (not married, just living together) gifts symbolize their cross purposes: she buys tickets to Bora Bora. He buys the deed to their mediocre house.

Independently, they find options. Frannie is hit on by a piano man (Raul Julia) who likes her displays and wants her to display for him. Hank, rather implausibly, catches the eye of a circus girl, Natassja Kinski, who sets a date with him.

Hank and Frannie argue, and break up, and become immediately miserable. Some of this is to a soundtrack of songs by Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle. Which is one of the many, many weird things about this movie. Because it’s kind of a musical… but the characters don’t sing the songs. Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle do. Which forms the soundtrack of some of the first half of the movie, then disappears… and re-appears later in the film.

Which is very deliberately constructed. Every scene is constructed essentially like a filmed stage play. It has one of the most obviously implied proscenium arches I’ve seen in a movie. The actors, in several scenes, move most left and right, not in depth.

Until there’s a deeply cinematic scene that completely breaks that cinematic language. The camera will sometimes move through the sets, but they’re clearly meant to feel artificial. Matte paintings are the real world. It’s one of the most artificially constructed films I’ve ever seen. To fans of filmmaking and artifice, it’s delightful.

But you don’t spend $26 million in 1982 on that very small audience.

Because the central problem of One from the Heart is that the central story doesn’t deserve the beautiful production it received. It’s, for lack of a better word, a very ’70s ethos: let’s spend millions on a story about an aging couple who deserve to settle for each other. The story isn’t worthy of the treatment. Which is part of the point of the story because it’s intentionally about sad sacks.

It’s the most beautifully made pointless film I’ve ever seen. Because these characters, both Hank and Frannie, don’t particularly deserve our attention. To put it a little glibly, they’re ’70s characters given the over-indulgent ’80s neon treatment. With some of the least memorable songs of Tom Waits’ career. And I say this as an absolute fan of the man. I took my dad to a Tom Waits concert at the Wiltern in 1999. It was one of our favorite mutual experiences in our life. He did not sing any songs from One from the Heart. We were all glad.

It’s difficult to review the film, because if you know anything about filmmaking, you can see the immense technical achievement of this film. So many shots are beautifully, meticulously constructed. So much intentional artifice. All to support a story that is hard to connect with. So much beautiful filmmaking, but so little to connect with. It’s like Coppola was trying to make a Scorsese film, with the most inflated budget possible. But Scorsese has a better sense for what makes the lower classes click. Coppola has a more middle, and upper-middle class sensibility. So, the people in One from the Heart don’t quite connect with him.

The film has gone through several edits, and this Reprise release is the shortest yet. The 4K UHD is a meticulous reproduction of the film’s original visual intent. It’s a brightly lit, beautifully constructed film.

It never quite clicks as drama. But the filmmaking is damned inspiring. There’s no location shooting, only staged sets. Sometimes this is disguised, sometimes highlighted, as when Hank watches his circus girl do her tricks against an aggressively contrived Vegas backdrop. The visual ambition is breathtaking. If only the story was worthy.

One from the Heart has been released on 4K UHD by Lionsgate. The release contains two cuts of the film: the Reprise cut on a 4K disc and the original 1982 cut on an accompanying Blu-ray. Extras on the 4K include a commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola. Video extras on the 4K, all new to this release, include “The Look of One from the Heart” (17 min) about the cinematography; “The Cast from One from the Heart” (22 min), about the performers; “The Choreography of One from the Heart” (25 min), about Kenny Ortega’s choreography; “Reinventing the Musical: Baz Luhrman on One from the Heart” (25 min), “One from the Heart: Reprise Restoration Comparison” (4 min), comparing this restoration to the 2003 restoration; and a trailer.

The Blu-ray contains the 1982 cut of the film (103 min), and the following extras:

“The Making of One from the Heart” (23 min); “The Dream Studio” (28 min); “The Electronic Cinema” (10 min); “Tom Waits and the Music of One from the Heart” (14 min); Deleted Scenes (34 min);”Videotaped Rehearsals” (9 min); “Francis Ford Coppola Speaks to Exhibitors” (2 min); “Press Conference at the Studio” (8 min); “This One’s from the Heart Music Video” (4 min); “Stop Motion Demo” (3 min); “The Tom Waits Score – Alternate Tracks” (24 min); 2003 Theatrical Trailer (2 min); 1982 Theatrical Trailer (3 min).

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Kent Conrad

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