80s US Bracket: One From The Heart (Director’s Cut, 1982)

The first film in my fourth and final match-up in the first round of the 80s US Bracket is glorious to look at, and uh, yeah, it’s glorious to look at!

Screenplay By: Armyan Bernstein & Francis Ford Coppola
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola

I wanted to keep staring at One From The Heart, to get lost in its myriad angles and flowing waves of color. But, I never once wanted to do anything with any of its characters. That right there should tell you why One From The Heart is such a disappointing film. And I don’t mean disappointing in the “oh, this could have been good” sense. No, I mean disappointing in the “this film was so unique it could have been something special” sense. As it stands One From The Heart is an interesting experiment, but only an interesting experiment.

I noticed something a bit off about One From The Heart very early on. That quickly changed from something off to something aesthetically different, and then it dawned on me, everything I was seeing was fake. One From The Heart is a sound stage film, and a sound stage film that has been meticulously crafted so that every frame is brimming with something for the eye to wander over. Bright reds, calming blues and neon greens are but a few of the colors that wash all of the natural real life feel out of One From The Heart. Francis Ford Coppola is in charge of this picture and he makes sure it is a picture that is as detached from reality as is physically possible. I can see why the visual aesthetic of One From The Heart would be off putting to some, but I loved it. One From The Heart didn’t remind me of a dream, it reminded me of that stage right before dreams, when reality and the dream world are merged in some sort of hazy neverwhere, and I loved that look and feel.

Helping out the look of the film was the score, or should I say single song, by Tom Waits. Crystal Gayle provides some additional vocal work, but that song is all Waits through and through. Rough, throaty whispers, and low growls that add up to the indelible impression of something real. This calls back to that neverwhere I spoke of earlier, because Waits and Gayle sing of reality, while Frannie and Hank are stuck in a relationship that isn’t quite real. It helps that I am a big Waits fan, but I know that I won’t be able to think of One From The Heart without thinking of what Waits does with its score.

For as meticulously crafted as One From The Heart is visually and sonically, it is severely lacking in the story and character department. Frannie and Hank are vacuous creatures, not worthy of our attention and it’s as if the movie knows this as well. The visuals and the music drown out the misogyny of Hank and the wishy-washy ineptitude of Frannie at every turn. But, they are the key players in this make believe world and outside of the visuals and the music I needed them to give me something to latch onto, but they never did. Raul Julia and Harry Dean Stanton sure as heck try to give me something to work with in a pair of interesting supporting characters. But, they are not the focus and they are not around enough to really make a dent in the damage caused by the inert leads.

I give Coppola all the credit in the world for trying something different with One From The Heart. He does succeed at creating a visually unique film and he adds to this by employing Tom Waits to create a wonderful score. Coppola doesn’t, however, follow through with the storytelling end of his part in the movie making process. One From The Heart is half of a film, half of a brilliant film in fact. But, I can’t enjoy the thought of what could have been, I can only shake my head at what was. One From The Heart is ambitious in areas, but that ambitiousness can not make up for its shortcomings in other areas. I won’t say that One From The Heart isn’t worth your time, because contained herein is the work of a great visual craftsman. It is however a very disappointing film, oh so disappointing.




2 responses to “80s US Bracket: One From The Heart (Director’s Cut, 1982)

  1. Shit. Now I want to see this. Flaws and all. After all, I’m a fan of Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography and of Coppola.

    Plus, I’m always interested in great failures. I really need to find that 2-disc DVD set. It’s in my most wanted list of DVDs.

    Thanks Bill.

  2. I’m sure you’ll find something to enjoy about the film. It didn’t work for me, but I still enjoyed it on a certain level.

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