17 June 2010

Tetro - out 23 June

Coppola takes a break from making wine to return to similar territory to 2005’s Youth Without Youth directing and writing this mesmerising, highly literate tale of familial secrets and lies.

Tetro follows 17 year old Bennie ‘s search for his older brother Tetro in Argentina’s capital. Once there, the two siblings confront shared histories and deceits, while each pursuing their own agendas.

Perfectly cast Vincent Gallo exudes broken down, beatnik charm as the eponymous blocked writer, while newcomer Alden Ehrenreich nearly steals the show as his younger brother, fuelled by confused desires and destructive rivalries. Maribel Verdu adds class to the supporting roles as Tetro’s former psychotherapist turned common law wife Miranda. Her subtle, understated performance as a wise and emotionally mature woman who just happens to be in love is the kind of female character that Hollywood rarely portrays – it’s a well written part and Verdu makes the most of it.

The city of Buenos Aries is an important character in itself. Its bohemian cafes and bars take on an almost mythical aspect with the intense black and white cinematography, while flashbacks are brought forth in phantasmagoric colour and brief dance sequences (calling to mind The Red Shoes). It’s ‘artsy’ approach fits in well with the beatnik ambience; jazz scores filter through the theatrical conversations and the whole film has a dreamlike quality, with everything being expressed in an extremely stylised way.

No doubt many would fault some of these techniques as pretension – they should, however, be seen as a continuation of Coppola’s stunning 1970’s output, where he invented new rules and discarded old ones. And while Tetro does not quite reach the heights of The Conversation or The Godfather’s (1&2) it is an intriguing, intelligent film and the best thing Coppola’s been involved with for many long years.

A startling reminder of how film can transport an audience, Tetro is the work of a true master rediscovering his muse.

This review also appears here: http://www.dontpaniconline.com/magazine/film/tetro2