Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rosengje @ Cannes: On Tetro

Thanks to Rosengje for sharing her notes from Cannes. Here she is on Francis Ford Coppola's Tetro.
Tetro is, for lack of more eloquent phrasing, just not a very good movie. It follows Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich in his feature debut) as he attempts to reconcile with his brother Angelo (Vincent Gallo). After a stint in an asylum, Angelo has disowned his family and now resides in Argentina under the name "Tetro" with his almost-wife Miranda (Maribel Verdú).

The two brothers both suffer from the pressure of their genius composer father's expectations and betrayals. While the Oedipal issues at play throughout Tetro are intermittently appealing, the film suffers from Coppola's need to excessively explain the motives and psychology. Each revelation is played for maximum dramatic effect. Not only are we treated to various characters discussing each tidbit of information, but there are also accompanying film clips and ballet sequences as reminders. The modest, sincere appeal of the story of loosely connected family members trying to navigate evolving relationships is lost in the director's weighty treatment of the material.

The majority of Tetro is beautifully photographed though there's an over-reliance on visual motifs such as reflections in mirrored surface and the flashing of lights. The decision to shoot predominantly in black and white is mostly successful, but I was drawn out of the world during the garish color sequences and bothered by the insertion of modern devices as counterpoints. This fairly standard family tale is not necessarily tied to a specific time period, so the occasional presence of MacBooks seemed unnecessarily jarring.
And here we get to the element that's winning everyone over even if they're cold on the film, a new star in Aldon Ehrenreich.
Tetro's most appealing quality is its star. Ehrenreich resembles a divine hybrid of Leonardo DiCaprio, Emile Hirsch, and Matt Damon.

Every member of my demographically varied group was swooning over him (as do many of the women in the film). If the story of his discovery by Steven Spielberg in a bat-mitzvah video is true, he just becomes even more appealing. The role of Bennie doesn't require excessive emoting until a dramatic twist toward the end, but Ehrenreich maintains a casually charming screen presence. He keeps the camera's attention even when the story doesn't.
Leo, Emile and Matt conjoined, huh? How can all that starry goodness fit into one man? But more importantly, when will Francis Ford Coppola get his auteurial mojo back? Both Tetro and his previous picture, Youth Without Youth have disappointed the hopeful.


Jason Adams said...

YWY is underrated.

Anonymous said...

I saw this at a screener recently and did not like Tetro much either, though Maribel Verdu, as always, was superb. I would disagree about Ehrenreich, who I found quite flat and a bit annoying in this.

Andrew K. said...

Damn. Poor Coppoloa. He has Emile, Leo and Matt in one movie and yet it isn't any good. Dare I say it... (insert disbelieving gasp)... has he reached the point of no return?

Flosh said...

What JA said. YWY didn't disappoint me at all. Can't wait to see Tetro.

Seeing_I said...

Leo, Emile and Matt conjoined, eh? Hot! Who gets to to be in the middle?