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One From the Heart

One From the Heart(1982)

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One from the Heart (1982). It's regarded as one of the most storied cinematic misfires of its generation, and maybe for all time. Desirous of performing a complete about-face after the grim subject matter and rigorous location shooting of Apocalypse Now (1979), director Francis Ford Coppola sank his energies and most of his assets into crafting a frothy musical romance of the sort he committed to the stage in college. The undertaking was ambitious in every sense. The Las Vegas locale would be entirely recreated on the Hollywood lot he purchased and rechristened Zoetrope Studios; the footage would be concurrently shot on video, effectively allowing the day's takes to be reviewed on the fly.

As production progressed, the cost overruns swelled the budget to $26 million, with Coppola fighting to obtain financing so he could keep the crew's checks coming. In the wake of the twin disasters of the exhibitors' bidding screening and a subsequent public engagement at Radio City Music Hall, Paramount backed out of its distribution agreement. Columbia stepped in, but Coppola had the film quickly yanked from a theatrical run that only pulled in some $900,000. The director would have to sell off his utopian production facility and spend nearly a generation recouping the losses.

One from the Heart did manage to reach more viewers through its release to home video in the early '80s, and has gained its champions over the years. Coppola cleaned up the print and sound for a theatrical re-release last year, and because of its recent release on DVD by Fantoma Films, One from the Heart is now available for home viewing for the first time in a decade. There's no disputing the care that those responsible for the two-disc package lavished upon the product, from the picture and audio quality to the six hours worth of extras. Twenty years haven't done much to ameliorate the film's basic problem, though. It stands as then-cutting edge technology utilized to create still-arresting eye candy, all in the service of a featherweight narrative.

The story is set over a Fourth of July, which also happens to represent the fifth anniversary of the relationship between travel agent Frannie (Teri Garr) and junkyard operator Hank (Frederic Forrest). They share a row home on the outskirts of Vegas, and are heading for the latest of their many whopping fights over what their future holds together. After storming out to commiserate with their respective best friends (Harry Dean Stanton, Lainie Kazan), they each come to the conclusion that they're ready for a night's fling. Frannie finds hers in the arms of Ray (Raul Julia), a charming waiter and wannabe lounge pianist. Hank makes an improbable conquest of the gorgeous young circus aerialist Leila (Nastassja Kinski). The morning comes with the question of whether the leads can find their way back together.

That's as complex and involving as it gets, and that's something that all the craft of Coppola and his collaborators couldn't quite rise above. Still, their efforts remain intriguing and visually stunning at times as cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and set designer Dean Tavoularis help mold an intriguing stage-lit "reality" within the neon-splashed backlot Vegas. A chunk of the film's subsequent following is attributable to the smoky, witty score composed by Tom Waits, with its Greek-chorus vocals provided by Waits and Crystal Gayle. The players do their best to wring what they can from the script. Every dollar spent may be apparent onscreen, and Coppola showed remarkable prescience about the role that computer electronics would play in film production, but hindsight hasn't raised One from the Heart above the level of an interesting curio.

Fantoma worked off of the re-release print for the DVD presentation, and the results are exceptionally vivid. The theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1 has been retained. The audio, taken from original master recordings, is presented in Dolby 5.1. Alternate audio tracks include a full-length commentary by Coppola, and a Dolby 5.1 "isolated score" track of Waits' compositions.

The second disc has a remarkable wealth of material, with no less than four brief documentaries dealing with issues from Zoetrope Studios' rise and fall to Waits' creative processes in rendering the music. (This feature, the isolated score, and a selection of six alternate song performances make the DVD a must-have for Waits' following.) Also included are a selection of ten alternate/deleted scenes, two with commentary by Coppola; preserved rehearsal videos from the set; a look at the stop-motion creation of the title sequence; and Coppola's filmed entreaty to the exhibitors to keep an open mind regarding the screening cut. Other extras of note include the trailers from the 1982 and 2003 releases, and text reproductions from movie trades of the period regarding the film's technical innovations.

For more information about One From The Heart, visit Fantoma Films. To order One From the Heart, go to TCM Shopping.

by Jay S. Steinberg