Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Critical Reactions #5 (One From The Heart)

In the wake of Michael Cimino's majestic but disastrously received HEAVEN'S GATE (1980) a film like ONE FROM THE HEART didn't really stand a chance when it premiered in 1982. After HEAVEN'S GATE, critics and film fans quickly turned their backs on many of the seventies most important American directors. This caused a number of truly astonishing films such as Peter Bogdanovich's THEY ALL LAUGHED (1981), Martin Scorsese's THE KING OF COMEDY (1983), Coppola's own RUMBLE FISH (1983) among many others to be greeted with outright hostility upon their initial releases. None were more ridiculed, and indeed more buried, than ONE FROM THE HEART.
Here is a sampling of critical reactions from 1981 and 1982 that range from a few positive to some quite brutal.

"This movie isn't from the heart, or from the head either; it's from the lab....ONE FROM THE HEART is like a jewelled version of a film student's experimental pastiche...Nastassia Kinski seems intended to be the spirit of something-of Vegas perhaps, or of romance itself...her scenes are the least enjoyable because she has no personality, but they're not painful, because she is very diffident and very lovely-a sad young vamp, slightly worn...she smiles her big empty smile as if she were visiting from another planet."
-Pauline Kael, The New Yorker-

"It doesn't work...the dialogue is especially silly as well as tediously repetitious...I hope Coppola will soon tire of his new toy and return to making movies."
-Pat Anderson, Films In Review-

"It's so easy to love ONE FROM THE HEART...sure and dazzling...sumptuous, sensuous, stunning..."
-Sheila Benson, Los Angeles Times-

"It clearly reveals the schizoid dream of Coppola's Zoetrope studio...Coppola has lost himself."
-Richard Combs, Monthly Film Bulliten-

"Garr and Forrest are even worse news in Coppola's long awaited flop...unpardonably wastes Nastassja Kinski...Coppola has a lot of explaining to do."
-John Coleman, New Statesman-

"Coppola pushes his cabin to the edge of the cliff. Then he cuts all his ties with solid ground, looks into the depths, and smiles...I didn't hate ONE FROM THE HEART but I was disappointed...Kinski gives promise of Dietrich like glamour and erotic mystery..."
-David Denby, New York-

"Runs out of money at the finish...Kinski fills her supporting role handsomely."
-Archer Winsten, New Yor Post-

"Coppola's manufactured event...the misused exquisite ultimate tribute to narcissism...the real subject is technique...not a disaster. It's not a legitimate even in it's own right, either."
-Joseph Gelmis, Newsday-

"Coppola's riskiest role of the dice...a hymn to Hollywood tinsel...nothing is real...feels like a musical but isn't...a magnificent abstraction, one from the state of the art."
-David Ansen, Newsweek-

"It's all technique and effects...self conscious, patronizing...Kinski is a lovely creature but the other three have not a flicker of charisma...The heart is missing."
-Judith Crist, Saturday Review-

"It is just a movie...spectaular...a movie about moviemaking...Coppola has worked from the brain and the gut. It remains to be seen whether he can make one from the heart."
-Richard Corliss, Time-

"The screening had an apocalyptic atmosphere...the title line is the first and last flickering sign of intelligence....Kinski is all visual tinsel...Coppola has thrown out the baby and photographed the bathwater."
-Andrew Sarris, Village Voice-

"ONE FROM THE HEART is an interesting production but not a good movie...The most dismal thing about ONE FROM THE HEART is that it lacks those rhythms. It is a ballet of graceful and complex camera movements occupying magnificent sets, and somehow the characters get lost in the process. There was never a moment in this film when I cared about what was happening to the people in it...Kinski, as a circus tightrope walker, has a beauty much more mature than in TESS and a wonderful moment when she explains "to make a circus girl disappear, all you have to do is blink your eyes."
-Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times-

and so it went...The critics were for the most part much kinder when the film got a celebrated brief re-release several years ago just before the astonishing DVD set came out. One of the most telling lines from above is, "Coppola's long awaited flop." I'm not sure how ONE FROM THE HEART could have succeeded in 1982 with this kind of attitude. Even more eye opening than any of these excerpts might be is the footage of a press conferance between Coppola and the press on the ONE FROM THE HEART set, that is featured on the dvd. Combative, angry and you can literally see Francis realizing that his dream project didn't have a chance.

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