Monday, March 19, 2012

"Tetro", layered family drama in Argentina, may be reflective of Coppola's own background; composer Golijov stars

With Francis Ford Coppola, you never know.  I rented “Tetro” having heard about the controversy Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov.

The film is a “typical” Coppola, an epic in layers, mixing fiction with experience, fantasy, and maybe a sprinkle of supernatural. The main story, in black and white, concerns the visit of 18-year-old Bennie, a ship steward, to his older brother’s home in Buenos Aires.  The brother Tetro (Vincent Gallo) is unwelcoming and secretive, and despite a female “mentor” Miranda (Maribel Verdu), has become despondent and unable to finish a bizarre novel about the family.  Bennie takes himself to adapt the manuscript (which he finds) into a play (“Wander Lust”), much to his brother’s shock. Nevertheless, it soon gets produced in Patagonia (with stunning scenery in black and white), leading to even more shocking family revelations and a climax, suggesting that Bennie has more powers than he realized.

The music by Golijov seems to resemble the concert overture (March 8, my “drama” blog).  It has some motivic relationship to an introductory  theme in Brahms’s First Symphony, as well as relationships to another film composer discussed on that blog entry.  But thematic relationships in music among composers are inevitable.  I “dreamed” a hymn theme that starts with the descending motive of the Polonaise in A by Chopin but then took it into a totally different place.  The film also uses music of Puccini (Madame Butterfly), and Mozart,  Offenbach, Easdale (“The Red Shoes”, a famous ballet film from the 40s) as well as the Brahms itself near the climactic unraveling of the movie.  Golijov says that the film gave birth to this music of his (“Osvaldo Golijov: Music Born from the Film” featurette).

The film shows the “fictional” components (the play, the ”Red Shoes”  and “Tales of Hoffman” excerpts) in color, in standard aspect, whereas the BW is always 2.35:1 (The “Hud” effect of Black-and-White Cinemascope), and this technique creates issues of projection in theaters that aren’t properly set up for full wide screen without vertical cropping. The "play" scenes have some interesting effects, such as ocean waves on a stage. 

The DVD comes from Lionsgate, with the original release from Alta and American Zeotrope.  I’m surprised that this film could be made for $5 million.
It’s good to mention a slightly earlier film by Coppola also with music by Golijov, “Youth Without Youth” (2007, Sony Pictures Classics), in which an elderly and failing linguistics professor (Tim Roth),  is struck by lightning right before WWII and starts to grow younger, like a Dorian Gray or Benjamin Button, while having a relationship with a woman growing older. In the meantime, he intersects and must evade Nazi experiments.
There is a short film “Fausta: A Drama in Verse” with a female Faust performing in a stage cabaret, in black and white. The poetry is by Mauricio Kartun. 
There’s another short of interviews, “I’ve Always Been Crazy”, where the director encourages the mentally ill to perform in front of a camera.  “Sometimes you don’t need actors.”

Also, “You don’t have the actors become the characters. You have the character become the actor”.  If some actor played me in the movies, would I become him?  (Maybe an exercise in “Being John Malkovich” or maybe Patrick Stewart – who looks and acts like me, after all.   Would Malkovich house all the information of my consciousness, otherwise stored on the surface of a black hole after I’m gone?  Interesting thought.   Everyone else played by Malkovich – maybe some kings in Shakespeare plays, whatever, also wind up on the Schwarzchild surface, housed with me.  Each one of us lives forever, intermittently.   So if you want immortality, be a character in a movie or play, and get acted.  Boy, that sounds like a premise for some heavy sci-fi.)

Official site for purchase is here. The film may be rented on YouTube.

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