One From the Heart: Coppola's Gorgeous Flop

From the man behind the mafia epic that is The Godfather, the masterpiece that is Apocalypse Now, and other great films like The Conversation, Dracula and Rumble Fish, comes a musical romance film to entrance and fascinate, a tale rich in charms, graphics and music and lacking in almost every other aspect, a visual masterpiece...One From the Heart. This is a perfect example of style over substance, a film that prioritizes what the audiences see and hear more than anything else; sadly, One From the Heart not only prioritizes its aesthetics, but it has nothing else to offer. Its story is bland and cheesy, overdone and invaluable; its characters feel empty and unmotivated, inspiring no compassion in the viewer, no sympathy and no concern; and its ending seems to only confirm the suspicion that almost no attention was given to the story or dialogue. At this point, you may be thinking that I have no love or respect for this film, but that is completely wrong. While definitely a failure as a storytelling artifact, One From the Heart’s visuals and score more than make up for its lack in story elements and make it one of the most fun times you can have with a mediocre film.

Set entirely in Las Vegas, the story begins on the 4th of July as Hank and Frannie break up while celebrating their fifth anniversary. Hank’s character represents stability and the need for conformity, and a certain selfishness that seems to come naturally when one wants nothing more than what is “normal”, while Frannie’s character seems to embody a yearning for adventure and excitement, and contempt for constancy and staleness. After their break up, Hank and Frannie begin two short love affairs with two new lovers that seem more fitting for their different and clashing personalities, but this being a Hollywood love story, they at last come to realize that they only love each other despite all their flaws, resulting in what one might call a “happy ending.”

What led me to discover this film was not the fact that it was made by Francis Ford Coppola, the legendary director, because like most of his fans, I never even knew of this film’s existence; I discovered it thanks to Tom Waits, the man who did the soundtrack alongside Crystal Gayle. Somehow the idea of Tom Waits scoring a romantic musical film seemed perfect in my head, and I was not disappointed in the least. His voice here is as ruthlessly gritty as ever, and clashes with Crystal’s to provide one of the best soundtracks that I’ve ever heard. Vocal Jazz that you could’ve heard in some dirty bar in some God-forsaken part of the city, its lyrics are hauntingly terrible and beautifully true. This is a film about the clash of stability and a sense of adventure, even if it might not be clear, curtesy of the bad dialogue, and Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle co-scoring the film is a perfect representation of that.

Ever since Apocalypse Now came out in 1979 and stunned the whole world, everybody kept anticipating and hearing about Coppola’s next masterpiece. Much was invested in advertisement, and soon, the whole world was waiting for this film where the renowned director was going to use experimental filming and editing techniques to bring life to his Broadway-like romantic musical. Well, visuals are where One From the Hearts stuns and delivers. This film looks like a Technicolor romantic film from the Golden Age of Hollywood if it were aware of its aesthetics at the time. It is radiantly beautiful, masterfully crafted and simply enchanting. The amazing editing used by Coppola only adds to the fairytale-like feel of the film and renders it an absolute treat for the eyes.

One From the Heart is the definition of a flop, with a budget of 26 million dollars, it only earned 636.796 dollars worldwide, and critically endangered the career of Francis Ford Coppola. The world forgot about this film, or more accurately, never cared for it in the first place, and the director went on to make other films, but I feel like it is worth visiting today just for its sheer visual impact and its incredible score.


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