Sunday, December 04, 2005

One from the Heart d. Francis Ford Coppola, 1982

You're a doctor - a figurative doctor here, 'cause I'm working strictly in the figurative - and you slice off a chunk of, I don't know, heart, skin, nose, flesh from American Cinema. Now you analyze that corpuscle; what do you get? Sex? Romance? Iconic architecture? Maybe a bit of patriotism? Sure, all of the above and more, you'd imagine. Now: let's limit ourselves to that part of American Cinema concerned with romantic relationships. Cleave yourself a small hunk of that and you get One from the Heart.

A pretty great film when all is said and done, One from the Heart is shot entirely off location, i.e. on a studio backlot, in expressionistic redwhiteandblues, and filled with homages to Busby Berkeley & slapstick comedy. The centerpiece of the main couple's table is a miniature of the Empire State Building. The film is set in that most American of settings, Las Vegas. What I'm trying to say is this: this film that details the collapse, and unlikely reunion, of a relationship is the stuff of American Cinema, and even the stuff of America herself.

Each piece of the film taps into an American cinematic tradition, paying respects while concomitantly satirizing that to which it lies indebt. To rehash plotlines would be superfluous - the plot is hardly of worth here: Hank and Franny love each other, Hank and Franny hate each other, Hank and Franny break up, Hank and Franny find other people to love, Hank and Franny miraculously reunite. The thing is that each part of the film is a carefully crafted piece of artifice. Franny & Hank's plot meanderings are controlled like Oedipus' chariot, subject to a deistic force guiding them along. That deistic force being - you got it now - the porcine ghost of American Cinema. Ghost because what's going on is deconstruction. If Franny & Hank's reunion seems implausible, that's because it is. They both fall for other people - other fantastic people - yet to return to each other. The viewer does not feel as if they deserve love, the steady, comfortable embrace of another. What they deserve is the loneliness they feel upon first splitting. All the self-referential (that is, referencing American Cinema, which this film is - categorically - part of) artifice around them is exactly that - artifical construct; the point of it being to illustrate the artificial nature of 1) Hank & Franny's relationship 2) Relationships in toto in American Cinema 3) Generally, American Cinema.

So don't take the corny atmosphere and cheap acting lightly - there's important stuff going on here.


Blogger Maya said...

I enjoyed "One From the Heart" when it came out and again when it was revived and its soundtrack (Tom Waits, Crystal Gayle) remains one of my all time fave raves. It's certainly the best thing Crystal Gayle ever did and I felt Waits was robbed of an oscar. The film's artificiality is thrilling. Acting is sound all around but I truly enjoyed Terri Garr in this. Perfect casting.

08 March, 2006 22:11  

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