Monday, August 28, 2017
Written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Tetro is the story of a reunion between brothers in Argentina as they deal with their dysfunctional family as well as the expectations to become geniuses. Told in a film-noir style, the film is an exploration of family dealing with the past and brothers trying to get away from the shadow of their composer father. Starring Vincent Gallo, Alden Ehrenreich, Maribel Verdu, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Rodrigo de la Serna, and Carmen Maura. Tetro is a ravishing and provocative film from Francis Ford Coppola.
The film follows a reunion between two brothers in Buenos Aires where they deal with the direction their lives had been in as well as being estranged from their renowned composer father who had made it hard for one of the brothers to succeed as a writer. It’s a film that explores the expectations of a family and the rivalries that was put upon for generations of families to succeed and outdo the previous generation as these two brothers not only deal with the past but also their own relationship. Francis Ford Coppola’s screenplay follow the lives of these two brothers as the 18-year old Bennie Tetrocini (Alden Ehrenreich) arrives to Buenos Aires having learned his older brother in Angelo (Vincent Gallo) has been living there for years under a new name in Tetro where he lives with a former nurse in Miranda (Maribel Verdu) he met when he was hospitalized.
The script showcase the tension between the brothers who hadn’t seen each other in years as Tetro was poised to become this great writer but went insane as he prefers to do lighting for a local theatre. Bennie has heard about a book that Tetro had been trying to write but it is believed to be gone until Bennie found it as it was written in code as it would prompt him to try and fix it while giving Tetro credit. Tetro doesn’t know what Bennie has discovered during the film’s first half as he has a hard time dealing with Bennie’s presence as well as news about their father Carlo Tetrocini (Klaus Maria Brandauer) who is rumored to be ill but Tetro wants to hear nothing about his father. The film’s second half revolves around what Bennie is creating as well as what he does to Tetro’s work which is based on Tetro’s own life as a child which includes the death of his mother and how he lost his girlfriend to his father who would eventually become Bennie’s mother.
Coppola’s direction is definitely stylish for not just setting the film almost entirely in Buenos Aires and shoot much of it in black-and-white in a film-noir visual style. It’s also for the fact that he gives the film a tone that does look like a film from the past though it’s set in modern-day Argentina. While Coppola would use some wide shots for some of the locations, many of his compositions rely on style in the way he would put his actors into a frame or to focus on a certain object on a table as it play into this world that is quite surreal but also entrancing. Much of the film is shot in a 2:35:1 aspect ratio yet Coppola would shoot some flashbacks relating to Tetro’s early life in a different aspect ratio as well as being presented in a colorful yet straightforward photography style. It would play into a world that felt normal but also unsettling as Tetro would reflect on these moments with sadness and anger. The usage of color photography would play into surreal yet theatrical sequences as it would reimagine a few things in Tetro’s life as well as Bennie’s own interpretations of these events during the third act. The sequences are obviously inspired by the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in The Red Shoes and The Tales of Hoffmann as they’re both referenced in a scene.
The direction also has Coppola use some unique camera angles for some scenes as well as create something that is playful in the way Bennie reacts toward some of his surroundings. Especially as Coppola would create something where it is obvious where it’s going but it’s more about the aftermath as well as everything Tetro and Bennie had been through. Coppola’s wide and medium shots would capture so much as well as some of the plays that are presented including an offbeat take on Faust to show a world that Tetro is reluctant to be involved in while Bennie knows he can contribute to that world. Notably as he would have a chance for him and Tetro to get out of the large shadow cast by their father in the hope that the next generation of Tetrocini would make something of their own and not give in to expectations. Overall, Coppola creates a rapturous film about two brothers reuniting to deal with the massive expectations of their artistic family.
Cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. does incredible work with the film’s cinematography from the noir-like black-and-white photography style for much of the film with its rich approach to light and shadows to the more colorful look of the flashback scenes. Editor Walter Murch does excellent work with the editing as it is stylized with its approach to jump-cuts and other cutting styles to play into the offbeat yet entrancing tone of the film. Production designer Sebastian Orgambide, with set decorator Paulina Lopez Meyer and art director Federico Garcia Cambero, does brilliant work with the look of Tetro’s apartment that he shares with Miranda as well as the stage sets for the plays that Tetro is lighting.
Costume designer Cecilia Monti does fantastic work with the costumes from the clothes worn for the play as well as some of the clothes the characters would wear at social gatherings. Visual effects supervisors Ryan Bozajian and Viktor Muller do superb work with the visual effects as it relates to a few scenes for some of the exteriors as well as the fantasy-play scenes. Sound editor Juan Ferro does amazing work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the some of the locations as well as the sound effects in the play and other aspects in the fantasy scenes. The film’s music by Osvaldo Golijov is phenomenal for its mixture of Argentine tango and folk music with some orchestral elements as it play into the world of Argentina while the music soundtrack would also include some classical and opera music that play into Tetro’s past.
The casting by Walter Rippel is great as it feature some notable small roles from TV talk show host Susana Gimenez as herself, Francesca De Sapio as Tetro and Bennie’s sister Amalia, Ximena Maria Iacono as Bennie’s mother Naomi from a flashback, Lucas Di Conza as the young Tetro, Adriana Mastrangelo as Tetro’s mother, Erica Rivas as Jose’s girlfriend Ana, and Mike Amigorena as the theater director Abelrado as someone Tetro somewhat despises for actually being successful in creating mediocre plays. Rodrigo de la Serna is superb as the theater owner Jose who is a friend of Tetro as he tries to ensure that Tetro doesn’t cause any trouble while Leticia Bredice is wonderful as the actress Josefina as someone who if full of life and charm as she is also Jose’s lover. Sofia Gala is terrific as Josefina’s niece Maria Luisa who would take part in Bennie’s play as she would also become his lover later in the film. Carmen Maura is excellent as the famed art critic known as Alone as this enigmatic woman whose opinion matters as she was a mentor to Tetro as she is someone that looks and feels important as it’s just a fun performance from Maura.
Klaus Maria Brandauer is fantastic in a dual role as Bennie and Tetro’s father Carlo Tetrocini and their uncle Alfie as Brandauer provides this sense of importance and bravado as Carlo as a man who is this great composer while Brandauer provides a more low-key performance as Carlo’s twin brother Alfie. Maribel Verdu is amazing as Miranda as a former nurse who is Tetro’s girlfriend as Verdu provides a maternal warmth towards Bennie as well as being someone who is aware of the secrets Tetro is hiding but knows when she needs to step in. Alden Ehrenreich is brilliant as Bennie as an 18-year old cruise waiter who arrives to Buenos Aires to meet his estranged brother as he would try to learn about why his brother disappeared while learning more about his family and the book that his brother never finished. Finally, there’s Vincent Gallo in an incredible performance as the titular character as this once-promising writer who succumbed to madness as he is trying to stray from that life while carrying some dark family secrets where Gallo displays this sense of anguish in him while not being afraid to be unlikeable.
Tetro is a spectacular film from Francis Ford Coppola that feature great performances from Vincent Gallo, Alden Ehrenreich, and Maribel Verdu. Along with its gorgeous cinematography, top-notch art direction, sumptuous music score, and a compelling story on family legacies and the shadows cast by previous generations. It’s a film that showcases two men trying to re-forge their bond as brothers and deal with the troubled legacy of their family. In the end, Tetro is a sensational film from Francis Ford Coppola.
Francis Ford Coppola Films: (Tonight for Sure) – (The Bellboy and the Playgirls) – Dementia 13 - (You’re a Big Boy Now) – (Finian’s Rainbow) – (The Rain People) – The Godfather - The Conversation - The Godfather Pt. II - Apocalypse Now/Apocalypse Now Redux - One from the Heart - (The Outsiders) – Rumble Fish - The Cotton Club – (Peggy Sue Got Married) – (Garden of Stone) – (Tucker: The Man & His Dreams) – New York Stories-Life Without Zoe - The Godfather Pt. III - Bram Stoker's Dracula - (Jack) – (The Rainmaker) – (Youth Without Youth) – (Twixt)
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