STUDIO: Lions Gate
MSRP: $27.98
RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes
•    Full End Credits
•    Audio Commentary  with Director Francis Ford Coppola and Actor Alden Ehernreich
•    “Music Born from the Film” Featurette
•    “The Cinematography” Featurette
•    “The Ballet” Featurette
•    “The Rehearsal Process” Featurette
•    “La Colifata: Siempre Ful Loco” Featurette
•    “Fausta: A Drama in Verse” Featurette

The Pitch

Francis Ford Coppola gets back to his roots and makes the type of New Wave-inspired film that American Zoetrope was created for.

This is a Francis Coppola film, you say?

The Humans

Written and Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Starring: Vincent Gallo, Alden Ehrenreich, Maribel Verou, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Carmen Maura

The Nutshell

Bringing Argentina to life with a tale of family, pain, and art, Francis Coppola’s new film is worth seeking out. It is shot beautifully, wonderfully acted and quite original. Touted as his best film since Apocalypse Now, it is definitely recommended to fans of French New Wave cinema and Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes.

Uncle Fester’s Spring line was to die for.

The Lowdown

Francis Ford Coppola disappeared from directing for a full decade until he made Youth Without Youth in 2007. Obviously that film sparked renewed interest in making the films he always wanted to make, as he is now back with Tetro, another self-written and directed passion project in just a few short years. Tetro’s box art features a pull-quote about it being Coppola’s best film since Apocalypse Now, strong words even if the director has been hit and miss for the last 30 years. However, this reviewer may be inclined to agree.

Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich, in his first feature film) comes to Buenos Aires aboard a cruise ship he is working on after quitting school. While the ship is being repaired he visits his long lost brother Tetro (Vincent Gallo, Buffalo ‘66). Tetro lives with his girlfriend Miranda (Maribel Verou, Y Tu Mama Tambien) who quickly develops a rapport with young Bennie and together they try to break through the melancholy, moody exterior Tetro has built for himself since abandoning the family in America. Slowly, Tetro’s reasons for distancing himself so strongly from their father, a world famous symphony conductor reveal themselves when Bennie finds a half finished autobiographical play Tetro wrote.

Argentinian women are the breast.

Tetro begins with the title-character staring into a lightbulb with a moth buzzing around it. The theme of blinding lights unravels over the course of the film as car headlights, reflected sunlight, and spotlights all connect to Tetro’s character. The black and white cinematography in the film makes the consciousness of light all the more apparent and the film looks absolutely gorgeous all the way through. A strong film noir influence is balanced with day-lit neorealist-style street scenes. Like Coppola’s 1983 film Rumble Fish, every once in a while a color scene is inserted to show flashbacks or dreams. The two styles harken back to the 1940’s, an era where one might see just as many black and white noirs as Technicolor marvels on the big screen.

Music, dance, and theater play essential parts of the narrative. Much like the opera as used in The Godfather Part III, Coppola is again using various forms of art to enhance the film-going experience. Directly referencing Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes and The Tales of Hoffman (both are available in Criterion edition DVDs and are worth seeking out if you haven’t seen them), the dance sequences in particular are miniature marvels in themselves. They are worked beautifully into the overall film and never feel too out of place, despite literally being a departure from the main narrative.

Coppola and a hamburger’s The Green Shoes.

Tetro is a distinctly Coppolaian film in the way it uses its setting and time period, handles a story centered on family conflict, and integrates various art forms. As usual, the director has mixed experienced actors and unknowns to create a cast that brings the story to life wonderfully. Were it not for a weak ending, this film could have been a modern classic. But considering some of the weaker output from him in the last several decades, this truly is Coppola’s best film since Apocalypse Now.

The Package

Tetro comes in a standard amray case with a holofoil stamped slipcover featuring the same artwork. The film is presented in 2.35:1 Widescreen format with 5.1 Dolby Digital audio. The Special Features begin with an audio commentary from Francis Ford Coppola and star Alden Ehrenreich. Recorded separately, the commentary is a mix of facts and inspiration on Coppola’s part combined with the fresh perspective from Ehrenreich, who had never been on a film set before. There is some repetition with the behind the scenes featurettes.

“The call is coming from inside the amazing cinematography!”

The ample featurettes cover a variety of the behind the scenes for Tetro. Each segment focuses on a different unique aspect, whether it is the music, cinematography, or ballet contributions, all of which yielded wonderful results, key to the finished product of the film. “The Rehearsal Process” covers parts of the preproduction, and shows how Coppola’s rehearsal heavy method clashed with Gallo’s improv style which he employs on his own productions. “La Colifata” show s how they shot the scene at the mental patient’s radio show mostly as a documentary and inserted their own fictional characters into it. Overall these are excellent featurettes that truly delve into the varied aspects of the production, and at around 10 minutes each, are succinct but informative. Also included is the complete version of the “Fausta” scene, slightly longer than it appears in the final film.

Everything is rounded out with the complete end credits sequence. In the film the end credits are a brief few seconds, mimicking the style of an old Hollywood production. Here you get the complete, minutes long credit roll that modern films are expected to have. This is fascinating because as Coppola mentions in his commentary, he invented the long end credits sequence for THX-1138 as a way to thank everyone who worked so hard on the small production. There are also trailers for other Lion’s Gate DVDs.

One last stunningly composed shot.

7.9 out of 10