One From The Heart

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Dave Koch, Feb 14, 2004.

  1. Dave Koch

    Dave Koch Stunt Coordinator

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    Hey:

    Seems a bit strange no one has mentioned this new release. Sure, maybe not the most popular film, but influential none-the-less. It has always been a secret favorite of mine; despite the bad press it initially got- now I wonder if the DVD release will be buried just like the theatrical release. Since no one lese seems willing to take a whack at this one, I hope you will indulge me to.

    It is important to know the circumstances around One From The Heart to understand the film- to judge the film alone is a bit unfair. The film came out at an important time, both in Coppola's career as a director, and in cinema in general, and both are intimately intertwined. Coppola had just finished- in some ways, barely survived- the major filming fiasco in the Philippines that was Apocalypse Now. One From The Heart was to be the perfect counterpoint to that film on so many levels. A story of war becomes a story of love; a film shot subject to major forces out of the directors control becomes a film with everything under the directors control; epic becomes personal; surreal becomes impressionistic; a long, drawn out production becomes a film that- at least as initially planned- could be shot almost live and in real time. After going through all Coppola went through to make Apocalypse Now, it seems inevitable that he would balance that film with it’s yang, One From The Heart.

    So why is this film important in Coppola's career? Quite simply, he bet the bank on it. Fresh off three highly regarded films (3 Best Director Nominations/One win, 3 Best Picture Nominations), Coppola was spreading his wings, and attempting the build a studio in the grand tradition of Hollywood. He took all his available resources, and bought up the old Hollywood General Studios and created a moviemaking haven at 1040 North Las Palmas. A place where artists could be free of the everyday constraints of the world around them and would be free- in fact, encouraged- to concentrate solely on making art. He would have a stable of artists- actors, craftsmen, technicians- all the personnel needed to make a film, housed under one roof. As filming progressed, it became very apparent that Coppola created not just a union of artists at the studio, but a family. At one point, funds completely dried up, and there was no way to pay anyone on the production staff- stars to grips, and all in between. Rather than stop production, all non-union crew on the picture voted unanimously to continue working without pay- that is the kind of dedication Coppola’s dream studio inspired in those there.

    While taking a step back into Hollywood of old, Coppola and his team also took tremendous steps forward in the creative process of how a film is made. In an effort to streamline the production process, elaborate pre-production artwork was created to map the entire production in shot-by-shot detail. In 1980, the process of completely storyboarding a film was unheard of, and even laughed at. But he went even further. With help from Sony, the storyboards were transferred to a then state-of-the-art editing system, and the whole movie “pre-visualized” in Coppola’s new “Electronic Cinema.”

    Another great step forward in how films would come to be made was the use of a video tap into the main camera. For the first time in a major motion picture, the director, camera operators, even the editors across the studio lot could look- live- at what was being shot, and judge what was actually shot, not just what they thought was being shot. The editors could instantly splice in footage shot moments ago into the constantly updated Work In Progress tapes (actually, disks, but what the hey). The director- who was often not even on the set- could judge instantly and accurately how well something shot today would cut with an effect, or a miniature, or something shot last week.

    The final great advance in moviemaking craft used in One From The Heart was the extensive use of Garrett Brown’s new camera stabilization system, the SteadiCam. To create the mood and fluidity of camerawork required by the story of One From The Heart, something new was needed. Luckily for Coppola and company, Brown’s invention appeared at just the right time, and filled the bill to a Tee. The SteadiCam allowed the camera to move with the cameraman without the apparent jitters and motion associated with hand-held cameras up to that time.

    So, to look at the film itself, one would first see the weak point as being the story. It is a very simple story, and meant to be. There are no horse’s heads in beds, or playboy bunnies hanging from helicopters… just a story of an extremely ordinary man and woman trying to find love. This is a story told millions of times over, and in a million better ways- the story is not the story in this film. This film is about art, about balance, yin and yang, and the search for self. It is about everything going on in 1981 at the Las Palmas studios, just as much as Apocalypse Now is really the story about a director lost in the jungles of Philippines with sets destroyed and actors who may-or may not- show up.

    The central characters of Frannie (Terry Garr) and Hank (Fredrick Forrest) are the yin and yang- she the dreamer, he the stable rock of reality- but they are thrown out of balance. In the course of the movie, they chase what they think are their ideals (Raul Julia as Ray and Nastashia Kinski as Leila), and have a wonderful time doing it. Ultimately, they learn more about each other, and themselves, for stepping out on Independence Day.

    As planned, a very simple story. The beauty of this film is the execution, its construction, the sets and settings in which this simple story plays out… and how it all interrelates. Everything is in balance. Just as Coppola’s new studio was a throwback and an homage to the golden age of Hollywood, so is this film in its very construction. The first thing you notice- that is, if you are prone to notice this sort of thing- is that the film is shot in Academy Ratio, or 1:1.3- same as the classic films of Hollywood of old. The first shot after the credits is so obviously a tip of the hat to Citizen Kane that you can’t help being to fall back into that time of filmmaking.

    Through the use of various theatrical and lighting tricks, Frannie and Hank are brought together- balanced- even when separated. They speak to each other in counterpoint, even without speaking directly to each other. The extensive amount of pre-production work is seen in how everything- the sets, lighting, framing, even the colors of the clothes- reinforces how these two characters are quite obviously two halves of a whole.

    So, a simple, sappy love story is too little for you… not enough to make this a great film. Fair enough. At the time of its initial theatrical release (which lasted only a week, as I recall), this film had simply the most beautiful photography I have ever seen in a film. Not just the rich color pallet that Vittorio Storaro used (and can get away with using) for Las Vegas, which in and of itself was groundbreaking and jaw dropping. But the lighting became almost a character unto itself: intrusive, yes, but somehow it works. Light come on and off as if by magic, color pools appear and disappear, it is a ballet of lighting.

    One often-overlooked craft in filmmaking is the production designer. In a film such as this, a film in which every single thing has to be designed and made (because the film was shot 100% on the lot at Las Palmas) to be a real place, and to allow for complex camera and lighting, that job is doubly hard. Dean Tavoularis’ sets are immense, colorful, realistic (as needed), and not at all as claustrophobic as the stages they were built into. If you were unaware, a full bock of downtown Las Vegas was built on a stage (actually two stages, with the adjoining wall removed.), as well as MacCarren Airport, complete with a 707.

    The icing on the cake of all this eye candy is the soundtrack. Gravelly-voiced Tom Waits is almost a natural choice for bittersweet romance ballads set in Las Vegas… but to add in Crystal Gayle? It is oil and water- combining to make electricity. Again, it is yin and yang… balanced perfectly.

    So what of the DVD? First, I think this is a difficult film to reproduce on video, under just about any circumstances. There are just so many large splashes of intense primary colors, video reproduction just cannot handle the levels of the film. Particularly the reds. To my eye, blacks seemed quite deep, and saturation was very high.

    Some editing has been done to this release. I believe a whole scene has been excised- I remember a very green scene in which Frannie and Hank argue while Hank plays the trumpet… badly. The story seems to flow a bit better because of this- I remember not being to sympathetic to the silly argument. With that gone, Frannie and Hank are a bit more likeable. The major production number- a mambo between Ray and Frannie that eventually spills out onto the streets of Las Vegas- is definitely changed. The Bora-Bora sequence used to be in the middle of the sequence, now it follows the street dance. The transitions on this re-edit look very rough to me. There are a couple other nicks and tucks, I think. It has been over ten years since I last saw this film, so it is hard to say for sure. I would say that this does seem to play better than the version I remember, as far as characterization of the main characters, the jarring edits of the dance sequence notwithstanding.

    Sound is better than one would expect for a film 22 years old. There are iso tracks of just the soundtrack, too, for fans of Tom Waits.

    There are plenty of extras on disk two, none of which I have yet had a chance to get to yet. But I will!

    So, the bottom line on this film is that it has a place in film history- and important place that leads to most modern film productions, and directly to Moulin Rouge (I am thinking Baz must have seen OFTH at least once!) But you should also see it for the art it is by itself. Don’t worry about the story- that is old. Look at how the story is told- in balance.
     
  2. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

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    Thank you.
     
  3. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    Nice review. [​IMG]

    Just FYI:

    Stanley Kubrick used Garrett Brown and the Steadicam extensively during production of The Shining in 1978 and 1979, two years before production began on One from the Heart.
     
  4. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Mr. Koch has hit upon the othe main topic for the next column.

    Zoetrope, unlike a typical "movie factory" was also a state of mind. One was either a supporter of the Zoetrope mindset or one was not.

    As one who was not formally involved with the One from the Heart production, but rather, was on site and involved in other ways throughoout, I can state that the DVD of One from the Heart, beyond merely properly capturing the film itself to home video, has captured that elusive mindset which was part and parcel of the period.

    High recommended.

    RAH
     
  5. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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  6. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  7. Julian Lalor

    Julian Lalor Supporting Actor

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    I saw the film when it was first released in 1982 and really, really didn't like it. I was young, so after all the hype of this re-release I thought I'd give it another go. It's still a truly terrible film to me, but the DVD is certainly an admirable chronicle for fans.
     
  8. Dave Koch

    Dave Koch Stunt Coordinator

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    Mr Harris:

    Sorry to steal a bit of your thunder. I trust your article will be a bit better written and researched than mine! I always enjoy your articles.

    >>> As one who was not formally involved with the One from the Heart production, but rather, was on site and involved in other ways throughoout...

    So you DO understand! I spent a lot of time there too, during those heady days. It really was quite something, and a shame it could not last. Funny, rewatching this film after so many years, I was able to see how much I learned there, and how it effected both my artistic and personal life. You had to have been there...

    Peter:

    Thanks for pointing out my inaccuracies. I did actually know about Kubrick, but had no idea about Lewis. Thanks so much for adding that!

    Julian:

    >>> It's still a truly terrible film to me...

    I can respect that. I am curious why... is it the lackluster story, it just did not draw you in, what keeps you "out"?

    I think it can be a lot like Moulin Rouge- you either get it... or you don't. People tend not to be ambivolant about it!

    Thanks!
     
  9. Julian Lalor

    Julian Lalor Supporting Actor

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    The poor performances and contrived script, mainly. That, and Tom Waits' music. I love musicals, but this one did nothing for me - whether I got it or not, I don't know. I certainly got Moulin Rouge, and hated it.
     
  10. Anthony Neilson

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    It's nitpicking but there's a nasty hair in the frame of one scene that really should have been spotted by whoever restored it.

    I don't think ONE FROM THE HEART is a great film but it's certainly an interesting one, and this is a great disc overall.

    Actually, George Clooney's CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND makes a nice companion piece to this, as he uses a lot of the "live" techniques that Coppola was exploring here, largely to even better effect.
     
  11. Dave Koch

    Dave Koch Stunt Coordinator

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    Anthony:

    >>> It's nitpicking but there's a nasty hair in the frame of one scene that really should have been spotted by whoever restored it.

    I noticed that, too. Very annoying as it is in a black shadow area. But that shot is wonderful... what is it, two ten-minute shots stung together with a "hidden" edit? The way that shot goes back and forth between Frannie and Hank is very cool.

    Julian:

    Thanks for that- I was just curious. I am a very poor judge of actors performances- I tend to just accept about anything I am given. Contrived is a very good word for the script, though. And if you do not care of Tom Waits, it would be very hard to like this film. Thanks for letting me know!
     
  12. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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