Francis Ford Coppola has reworked somewhat and meticulously restored his ambitious 1982 romantic musical fantasy "One From the Heart," out of circulation for more than 20 years, but for all his efforts it stubbornly remains a bold experiment in style and technique that doesn't work. The reason remains the same too: the baroque visual lushness supplied by two masters, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and production designer Dean Tavoularis, plus the contributions of a clutch of special effects wizards, still overwhelms a very simple love story about two attractive, likable and very ordinary people whose relationship hits a snag on the fifth anniversary of their togetherness.
(Coppola has reworked 28 minutes of footage throughout the film, substituting seven minutes of the original release version with never-before-seen footage, but these nips and tucks are subtle rather than substantial.)
Hollywood, had Coppola taken his first-rate cast and crew and headed for the real Las Vegas, jettisoning plans for some silly production numbers along the way, the result could well have been a gem of a love story. That's because Coppola directs with his usual masterly authority and aura of sensuality, telling his story with his characteristic easy flow and grace, and while visually the film may be overwhelming, "One From the Heart" benefits strongly from the seductive, plaintive songs of Tom Waits, sung by Waits and Crystal Gale.
Teri Garr's Franny is a Fremont Street travel agent who dreams of taking off to the exotic locales to which she sends her clients, and Frederic Forrest's Hank is the proprietor of an auto and sign junkyard with his pal Moe (Harry Dean Stanton). (Franny's best friend is a down-to-earth Lainie Kazan.) A sweet — though not overly imaginative — guy who has put on a few pounds, Hank is preoccupied with the purchase of their spacious, slightly seedy Spanish Moderne home as a good investment. The anniversary forces the dreamy Franny to realize that neither she nor Hank has changed in the ways she hoped would bring them closer together.
A couple of edgy moments between the two provoke a crisis in their relationship, causing them to take off, seeking love in other places.
Franny soon encounters Ray (the late Raul Julia), a handsome waiter who passes himself off as a lounge entertainer, while Hank catches the eye of Leila (Nastassia Kinski), a rebellious and beautiful young circus performer.
In the space of two days, Franny and Hank discover how they really feel about each other.
This love story and the way in which it unfolds is ultimately affecting, thanks to the talent and charisma of Forrest and Garr, but getting there is tedious and largely lifeless because it takes place in such a distractingly artificial universe, one in which some actual Vegas locales—or flawless replicas — clash jarringly with the obviously fake. Indeed, there's something perverse in Coppola having cast two gifted actors rather than stars as Hank and Franny and then placing them in a gorgeous, stylized neon-and-flashing-bulbs fantasy world that might drown out even the star wattage of a Julia Roberts and a Richard Gere.
It would seem that even 20 years ago the real Las Vegas would have supplied enough artifice without further embellishments. The irony is that "One From the Heart's" value may prove to be as a historic record of so much landmark Las Vegas signage, such as the vast Golden Nugget Casino sign that has been lost in the last two decades.
'One From the Heart'
MPAA rating: R
Times guidelines: Some nudity, sexuality, language
Harry Dean Stanton...Moe
An American Zoetrope presentation. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Producers Gray Frederickson and Fred Roos. Executive producer Bernard Gersten. Screenplay by Armyan Bernstein and Coppola; from a story by Bernstein. Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. Director of photography Ronald V. Garcia. Editor Annie Goursaid, with Rudi Fehr and Randy Roberts. Songs and music by Tom Waits. Costumes Ruth Morley. Production designer Dean Tavoularis. Special visual effects Robert Swarthe. Art director Angelo Graham. Set decorators Leslie McCarthy-Frankenheimer.
The 2003 Restoration; Producers Kim Aubry and Francis Ford Coppola. Film restoration CFI Restoration. Digital film restoration Post Logic Studios. Prints by Technicolor. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes.
Exclusively at the Nuart through Thursday, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 281-8223.