One From the Heart

January 28, 2012 17 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

In the early 1980’s Francis Ford Coppola, coming off the Apocalypse Now debacle, decided to find an easier way to make a movie. His belief is that it was easier in the forties during the heyday of the studio system. So he hatched a plan to have his own studio complete with technological advances, creative freedom and a short shooting schedule to get movies out at a swifter pace than most studios at that time would. His first venture was an ambitious combination mixing theatrical setups from the stage on film. With the big sets and the bright lights of Las Vegas, this looked to be one for the ages. This was to be one of the most different musicals. This is One From The Heart.

Fran (Teri Garr) is a window dresser in a travel agency with dreams of getting away from the city of the big gamble to a more relaxing atmosphere. Her longtime boyfriend Hank (Frederic Forrest) feels more comfortable where he is, so comfortable that for their Fourth of July anniversary when she got him two tickets to Bora Bora, he got the last share of their house from his best friend, giving him and Fran sole ownership. This doesn’t settle too well with Fran and after five years decides that her and Hank are done as a couple. Meanwhile, Fran encounters a mysterious man named Ray (Raul Julia) that gives her promises of a song and dance performance across the way while Hank encounters Leila (Nastassia Kinski) and with the assist of his best friend Moe (Harry Dean Stanton), takes a chance to move on after Fran. Little do they know that the Fourth of July ,with all it’s excitement and all it’s promises, is one day that reminds them that it’s hard to move on with someone else when their past reminds them of how much they miss each other and how difficult it is to let go. It goes to show that breaking up is hard to do.

The first I had ever heard of this movie in existance was in parody on SCTV when Rick Moranis played Coppola and in a profile about Coppola where very few clips were shown of the film but the one clip that stood out was Teri Garr’s walking down the road to the bright lights which ended up being the cover of this DVD.

As a film, it’s a curious and ambitious movie. If it’s one thing I know about Francis Ford Coppola as a director is that he is the master of doing so much with so little and here there were some of those moments in this film, especially in the parallel storytelling of the paths both Fran and Hank take through the Fourth of July night in Las Vegas. The sets by his longtime set designer Dean Tavoularis are eye popping and a thing of beauty. There’s nothing like the wonderful sight of neon light on a set and it is in high form in this film. The colors pop and never distract too much from the flow of the film which admittedly is uneven at first but then picks up after a few minutes and stays that way until the end.

It’s not as grabbing as most musicals are. Maybe that’s because it’s an unconventional musical that let’s the music move the story along rather than having the actors break out in song (although a few have brief singing moments). The music, written and composed by Tom Waits, is quite different bringing a bit of a noirish touch to the musical which is evident in the title theme that sounds similar to the theme of Body Heat. This is the first of three movies in which horns and neon lights go well together (the other two being Blade Runner and Brazil).

As for the acting, all are decent in their performances but the real standout is the late Raul Julia in the role of Ray. He is a charming match for Fran and even bounces into a dance number with her and brings that kind of sex appeal that Hank lacked. He also has one of the best intros to a character that I’ve seen in a musical since Richard Gere’s intro in Chicago. The difference being that it’s quiet, beautiful and brings the film to life with the lights on cue.

If there’s one thing I disagreed with it was the ending. It would also probably be the viewer’s choice as well but being that this is an ironic musical and being that it is unconventional, the expected ending would not be the case and a more unexpected one would be more the choice than the obvious. With a movie that borders on fantasy and reality, it would’ve been interesting to see how much further it would’ve gone in Fran’s fantasy. In the end, all the viewer still has is reality and all the fantasies are pipe dreams.

I don’t know how I would’ve felt seeing this movie when it was first released at that time being that this cut on this DVD is a restored one that took some of the original footage out and added little touches here and there. What I could say for the present day is that One From The Heart is an intriguing piece that is one neon highlight in Francis Ford Coppola’s career and for me, even though it won’t appeal to everybody, the resuly is a very decent movie that tries very well and succeeds for the most part.

Video: How does it look?

One From The Heart is in it’s first incarnation on DVD in the full screen 1.33:1 aspect ratio. At first I was curious as to why a film from that time would be, but the answer came to me in another section that I will discuss shortly. As for the transfer, it is a beautiful print with the occasional speck and grain (particularly during the end credits) and many elements of a haze that is apparent in many of the movies of the early eighties. It’s not totally clear but there always looks like a minor fog. With that aside, the neon lights are extra bright, the colors are gorgeous and the look of Vegas is a sight for sore eyes. A very good transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

The track of One From The Heart is remastered in the Dolby Digital 5.1 form and it is a stunner. The dialogue comes out sharp from all channels as well as the background effects and the music comes out better than most sounded movies of the eighties without the occasional muteness. Even the voices of Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle come out sharply on this track as well as the isolated score track where you can hear the songs and the score without the dialogue. The one upshot of the 5.1 track is that the music outweighs the dialogue in a few scenes, but that’s a minor flaw. It’s very good all the way through. This disc also has English subtitles and an aformentioned isolated score track.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Fantoma and American Zoetrope have given One From The Heart the two-disc treatment and both discs (particularly the second one) are showered with many extras.

On Disc One, there is a commentary with director Francis Ford Coppola. He is a great director that is an even greater commentator. He fills his track with some great stories about the difficulties getting the film out as well as the playfulness on the set with the actors and the crew. It’s also interesting to know of the intended projects that would link to this film as well as what happened to the neon sets for this film. Let’s just say a film that came out not too long after in the eighties got a hold of them and also made great use of it. It’s a great track and more than worth the listen.

On Disc Two, the disc provides three sections on the backdrop of one of the signs from the title sequence, Documentaries, From The Vaults, and Galleries.

In Documentaries, there are four sections that go through the aspects of the film using a lot of footage during production and post-production of the film in the eighties.

“The Dream Studio” is a twenty-eight minute look into the dream that Coppola had to return to the time of the studio system with this movie being the first (and ironically the last). It’s looked like a great plan and it was interesting on how Coppola looked to get to the high standards of technology as well as open the art of filmmaking to a wide range of young people including future director Michael Lehmann who represents the only present day interview and is known for going on to direct such classics as Heathers and Hudson Hawk (common with the H movies). It also goes through the budgetary struggle and the end result being less than expected. It also made me hunger for the days that films were shown at Radio City Music Hall. It’s narrated by Teri Garr and it quite fascinating despite it’s demise. It’s also great to see interviews from The Merv Griffin Show and the old Late Night with David Letterman show.

“Electronic Cinema” is nine minutes of how Coppola looked to edit films on the same day they were shot using old techniques from the live television days during the eighties and how Coppola wasn’t far off on that dream becoming a reality.

“Tom Waits and the Music of One From The Heart” shows during that time some of the evolution of the music as well as the artist circa 1981. It’s quite a match with the putting together of the material along with the inclusion of Coppola with the occasional song. He’s a unique artist and his pairing with Crystal Gayle is intriguing.
(Note: Coppola would reteam 10 years later with Waits in front of the camera for Bram Stoker’s Dracula as Waits played Renfield)

“The Making of One From The Heart” is more from the set of Zoetrope studios going into the cast and crew filming along the sets as well as Coppola at work with everyone with great loyalty and not the slightest bit of negativity for Coppola

It would’ve been great to have all the documentaries in a “Play All” option, but individually they are wonderful.

From The Vault is divided into four sections. The first of which are deleted scenes and they range from alternate openings and endings to more arguments amongst the characters and alternate versions of scenes that were already present in the finished cut. It also gives some insight into what the Radio City Music Hall audience got to see on that cold January night. I think the deleted scenes are very good and I preferred the original opening to the one that was chosen for this cut. Two of the scenes have commentary from Coppola and his comments are always welcome, especially in one scene where the inclusion of a recent Oscar winner just happened to be in the background.

The second is Alternate Music Tracks from Tom Waits and company and it does make the viewer wonder what it would’ve been like had the music gone this way for this film. It’s all audio and an interesting listen.

The third part in the Vault is Found Objects. The first is a seven minute press conference on the set in February of 1981 where a video demo is shown on a screen (I miss the color bar under the Zoetrope title) as well as the delayed presence of the cast and a case where Francis gets testy with a question from one reporter. Next is the introduction by Coppola to the exhibitors that was featured in the first documentary and is here by itself. After is a music video for “This One’s From The Heart” and it is a basic compilation of clips from the film with the music that is nicely put together. Finally in this section is “Stop Motion Demo” a three minute featurette showing the making of the title sequence and it has the visual effects co-ordinator present day discussing how they used this technique both in the film and the featurette. It’s a cute piece and a good one at that.

The final part in the Vault is Videotaped Rehearsals that show four instances with the actors and the preparation they go through sans the dressing of the characters and makes one wonder why this movie didn’t do as well with the few difficulties on the set.

Lastly, there is the Galleries section with two trailers for the first run release and the re-release, two articles from the trades covering the sound recordings and post production and making the film with video.
Also there are photo galleries and DVD credits.

Overall, one of the big gambles of Hollywood is covered wonderfully with this two-disc set with a decent film and a great amount of extras that come highly recommended.

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