"Tetro" DVD, Blu-ray Review

5/12/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Review


Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Written by Coppola, 120 Minutes, Rated R

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

In a lot of ways, "Tetro" is what Francis Ford Coppola has been working towards for his entire career--the familial struggles of "The Godfather," the stark realism of his early '80s work, the romanticism and vibrancy of his late '80s and early '90s work, and then his slow descent from from grace and subsequent return with his European productions.  "Tetro" combines all of these elements into one multi-styled and timeless story about creativity, brotherhood and, as one character says in the film, the timeless theme of rivalry.

It's been a long time, but Coppola is definitely back. "Tetro" is everything you could want in a Coppola film. Partly in black and white, with flashbacks and other little segments in color, the film tells the story of brothers Angelo and Benjamin Tetrocino, the sons of a famed and arrogant composer who has alienated the two men, Angelo fleeing to Argentina on a writing sabbatical, and Benny escaping military school to join him.

It's been more than a decade since the two have seen each other. Angelo (Vincent Gallo), now under the single name "Tetro" and living with his girlfriend Miranda (Maribel Verdu), is cold to Benny (Alden Ehrenreich) at first--he's tried for a long time to forget the family he left behind, even quitting his writing, which became too auto-biographical for him to handle. Benny knows very little about his family or Angelo's past, as he was young when he left, but his desperate attempts to pry information from Angelo only tears them apart even more.

Their conflicts come to a head when Benny finds Angelo's unfinished play about their father and the family's tumultuous past and has it published.

The way Coppola tells this story is highly inspired. Interspersed throughout the main black-and-white tale following the brothers in Argentina are vibrantly colored flashbacks, sometimes realistic and natural, and sometimes incredibly flamboyant interpretations of the story through ballet and opera, apparently inspired by the musical works of Powell and Pressburger. All of these segments are absolutely gorgeous--Coppola always has used color to its best potential (even in his most egregiously poor work like "Life Without Zoe" or "Dracula") and this is no exception--it's as if he's bringing a beautiful painting to life in these sequences.

The black-and-white parts are just as wonderfully filmed, however. Watching the way Coppola uses mirrors and shadows throughout the film, the stunning close-ups, the long, haunting shots of the streets of Argentina at night--seeing all of these things, you really start to wonder how anyone could forget the simple fact that Coppola is truly one of the visual masters of his time. A filmmaker hasn't made this strong a comeback since Malick returned after two decades with "The Thin Red Line."

Even disregarding the visuals, Coppola puts together a fine yarn. His themes of familial conflict here aren't quite as sophisticated and well-conveyed as in "The Godfather," but they're not far off, and even when the film descends into a bit of melodrama in the last act, Coppola hits all the right emotional beats. You really feel for these characters. This is also thanks to the two lead performances from Alden Ehrenreich and Gallo, the latter of which gives a performance so good I'm almost willing to forgive him for being such an unlikable stooge off-camera (just as one example, he often claims to be the best actor of all time).

It's not a perfect film. As I said, it's a little shaky in the last half hour or so and sometimes it's a bit too theatrical for its own good, but if there's any proof Coppola still has that spark of genius in him, it's "Tetro." A fine return to form, and a wonderful and heartwrenching drama all its own.

Grade: B+

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