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Cannes 2009: "Tetro" (Coppola)

Tetro sees an artist coming out of his hibernation; still groggy and a little stiff in the joints, we can nonetheless recognize a welcome return of an American cinema of characters, of adults, and of maturity in no way pitched towards an ironic, alternative “independent” crowd.  Stepping over the indulgence of Francis Ford Coppola’s official return to filmmaking, Youth without Youth, his new film has three major things going for it: it stars Vincent Gallo, is set in Argentina, and is shot in black and white (though digitally) by a filmmaker who clearly is watching great foreign films of the 60s, not to mention his American brethern of the 70s, rather than the television of the last decade.  It may hinge almost entirely upon a quizzically under developed background of family turmoil and trauma (“ancient themes” as Gallo reflexively mentions), but the spirit of a filmmaker is definitely here.

This unconvincing backdrop makes the film more awkward and inconsistent than it should be, but the ingredients are right. The actors chosen and their performances —bodily, and beautifully elastic in the women (Maribel Verdú and Leticia Brédice), facial, sleepy and nursing in the men (Gallo and Alden Ehrenreich)— are inspired, even as Tetro moves superficially around them.  When people talk about a film being a glimpse of what movies used to be like, they usually mean old Hollywood; but Tetro, understandably and with welcome, makes one think of past movies—of the new Hollywood of the 1970s.  Emphasis on characters and the character of the space they live in catches us off guard because it makes us realize what has been missing from much of American cinema, which has moved on to other things in Coppola’s (and others) absence.  What we sense here is real effort—though an effort couched in a George Lucas-esque feeling of an insulated production cut off from the present and the influence of collaborators.  But still.  This is a proper return, a strong connection to the past and a very hopeful indication of the future.


Looking forward to it, even though I can’t stand Vincent Gallo.
Will be interesting. Can’t wait.
Gallo appalls me. I don’t understand how he’s in anything requiring the slightest bit of nuance or range. He’s interesting to look at and plays a certain type of Buffalo 66 character well, but this? I won’t bother.
I agree with David. (though I did think The Brown Bunny was good. But Buffalo ’66? Ugghh…)
What about Gallo in Claire Denis’ films?
Gallo is such a fascinating problem that he’s almost mathematical. He’s the Fermat’s Last Theorem of contemporary cinema, this complicated set of statements that I’m always trying to solve. Do I like Gallo? I have no idea, though I clearly like Gallo / Denis and even enjoy Gallo / Gallo in some respects. I have to say, though, in G / G category, I disagree with Aaron, as I think Buffalo ’66 is the better film. But he has a potency—we have to admit that he does, because no one has mentioned Coppola in the comments, but almost all of us mentioned Gallo.
Cannot wait for this one. Looks utterly different from everything out there right now.
my impression of this film actually seems to closely follow yours DK. I am fascinated by Gallo. Casting him as Tetro is a one up on or = to the casting of Federic Forrest in one from the heart. He is certainly a disruptive figure, but, in my opinion, casting Gallo was, in addition to the use and application of Powell + Pressburger, the film’s one real stroke of genius. Gallo is all ego, and yet all melancholic self-doubt at the same time. he is both practiced and honest-though the honesty he plays feels the same in every film (even, to some extent in trouble every day.) as ‘Alone’ sort of describes in the film-Gallo is the film’s glacier.
why did my comment appear with a line thru most of it?
No idea Jessica, maybe some formatting issue? I agree with you though, Gallo is a force outside the film placed inside it, and used well I think. I accidentally misread your comment and semi-forged a connection in my mind between Gallo and P&P, which is an interesting association…
I hate to say it, after enthusiastically looking forward to (in my Rain People poster piece) Coppola’s first original screenplay in over 30 years, but the best American movies of the 70s were everything that Tetro is not: subtle, undemonstrative and couched in a very real sense of place and time. Tetro felt as if it was all filmed on a soundstage.
True, but is that a bad thing? Cf: Rumble Fish and One From the Heart.
One of the best new films I’ve seen this year.
Tetro is the best film I have seen this year! I find it to be the best film Copolla ever made.
no cock in this one though, oh wait….

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