DVD of the Week – Review of Tetro (2009)
by NIR SHALEV
Francis Ford Coppola is one of the most famous and greatest of living directors, but strangely he hasn’t written an original screenplay since his Oscar winning film The Conversation (1974). With Tetro, Coppola goes back to his roots of being an “original” director and, as expected the film is gorgeously shot.
Vincent Gallo stars as the title character, who changed his name to Tetro from Angelo in a bout of defying his father. We meet Tetro through his younger brother Bennie (newcomer Alden Ehrenreich), who visits Tetro in Buenos Aires and also meets his beautiful girlfriend Miranda (Maribel Verdú). Tetro was a poet before and during a supposed mental breakdown and had met Miranda at the mental asylum she’d worked in. His family history is hidden from Bennie because Tetro believes that it’s best for Bennie to not know too much about his father. When Bennie finds Tetro’s hidden, written-in-code notes for a semi-autobiographical screenplay/stage play, he secretly deciphers and types them up as a completed screenplay. Brotherly rivalries abound but Tetro has been keeping secrets from Bennie for a very good reason.
Apparently, a lot the characteristics and some of the background situations revealed in the family mystery, that unfolds in flashback sequences are based on members of Coppola’s family, directly his father and grandfather. It’s a personal movie for him and so we can feel authenticity in the relationship between Bennie and Tetro.
Coppola’s presentation is shot in the digital medium but in gorgeous black and white. Every shot is beautiful to look at, with fantastic cinematography, and it feels like a 1960s Italian film; sometimes even a Fellini film. It was entirely shot on location in Buenos Aires and feels very romanticized because Buenos Aires looks and feels like a dream. The cobbled streets, the stone buildings, and the Jazzy/Latino soundtrack make this film an atmospheric and nostalgic dream-like drama that contains good, naturalistic performances. Also, there are sequences of flashback that are presented in color and in forms of ballet and operas. They are beautiful to watch and listen to and yet, still not as gorgeous as the black and white aspects of the cinematography.
The DVD and Blu-ray come with a commentary track featuring Francis Ford Coppola and the young star Alden Ehrenreich. The short features are The Rehearsal Process: Documenting Coppola’s extensive preparation with the cast, Fausta: A Drama in Verse: Extended version of the play featured within the movie, Mihai Malaimare, Jr: The cinematography, The Ballet: A look at the film’s choreography and the use of dance in the film, Osvaldo Golijov: Music born from the film, and La Colifata: Siempre Fui Loco: A behind-the-scenes look at the taping of Tetro at La Colifata.
Other new releases this week: Leap Year, Tooth Fairy, Nine