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Tetro: The Virtue of Black and White

"The cinema language happened by experimentation – by people not knowing what to do. But unfortunately, after 15-20 years, it became a commercial industry. People made money in the cinema, and then they began to say to the pioneers, “Don’t experiment. We want to make money. We don’t want to take chances.”
Francis Ford Coppola.

It is such a vibrant, varied and unrelenting cinematic experience! An article would only be a faint appetizer after which you dive into the buffet of abundance and variety!
Upon venturing to put words on paper you feel like besieged by the question where to start. But let us start by his 2009 movie Tetro which was screened as a sideshow in the Director's Fortnight Program at Cannes International Film Festival, not the official competition. Copploa had sent Tetro to Cannes at the beginning of the year and remained waiting for the answer, and only two days before the official announcements were to be made, someone dialed Coppola's number to tell him that his film would be screened outside the official competition. Coppola refused, because he wanted his film to be in the official selection.

He did not want mere compliments, so he decided to withdraw the film and send it to "The Directors' Fortnight", an independent demonstration, held during the days of Cannes International Film Festival. As soon as the news arrived, the leaders of the demonstration chose his film for the opening show.
Tetro, partly based on a poem, recalls aspects of Coppola's autobiography. It probes the nature of the relationship between his father and his uncle "Tetro"; a relationship coupled with some cruelty and mood swings. Coppola uses this relationship as a tool to help him liberate the artistic form he was aspiring for.
Suffice it to know that Coppola was behind timeless masterpieces of movies spearheaded by The Godfather which ranked third on the list of Best Films in World Cinema by the American Film Institute. Listen to the background song in The Godfather here!

Coppola was born to a flute-player father (Oscar Best Musician in The Godfather), and a mother who was an actress. After studying Film Direction at Hofstra university, he worked as an assistant director to Roger Coreman, and tried various jobs in filmmaking from writing to production.
The 1963 horror movie Dementia 13 was his first film.

In 1969, he founded with friend producer and director George Lucas American Zoetrope to escape the control and dominance of major studios. 1971 witnessed the fundamental turning point in his career when he made The Godfather, the highest-grossing movie of all time that earned him an Oscar for co-writing the script with the original author of the novel Italian Mario Puzzo.
In 1974, his filmThe Conversation won him the Palme d'Or at  Cannes International Film Festival. In that same year, the second part of The Godfather won six Oscars, including Best Director, Writer and Producer (all 3 Oscars for him). In 1979, his Apocalypse Now reaped the Palme d'Or in Cannes once again. Obviously, he had good reasons to be mad at the management of Cannes Festival, which did not take into account his previous winnings when deciding against Tetro in 2009. 
At the podium in the Hotel lounge, none of the Festival's leaders were at his side when he said he was pleased that his Tetro was screened in the same hall in which he had won the Palme d'Or twice.
But Coppola was not immune from financial crises. He stopped making films for a decade and was financially forced him to sell his Zeotrope studios and migrate later to Argentina after being let down by friends, including George Lucas, who became the richest person in Hollywood.

In Argentina, Coppola established a huge resort and art studio, to live far away from the noise and bustle of Hollywood and to realize his own film projects. He also had great
success in establishing a fine winery facility!
Tetro is an example of the artistic form that seeks art at the expense of everything. That ascertains a language for images, a language for lighting and for any episode that one is trying to master as an expression. Coppola returns to cinematic form with beautiful black and white photography and great performances. He seems to close a circle with his film of 46 years ago, Dementia 13. "What unites the first and last Coppola films is white and black photography, claustrophobic atmosphere, the stories of ghosts and paternal families with a woman who sees everything from outside."
Tetro is about rivalry and creative differences in an Italian family living in South America. Coppola wanted to "stress on fine arts and human approach to it as well as on how it gives birth to competition, which leads to dirty rivalry. He "desperately wanted to move out of crime, special effects and urban U.S., which is no more of interest.” to him.

 Summary of Tetro's Plot:
"Bennie travels to Buenos Aires to find his long-missing older brother Tetro, a once-promising writer who is now a remnant of his former self. Bennie's discovery of his brother's near-finished play might hold the answer to understanding their shared past and renewing their bond."IMDb.
Through Tetro, Coppola is back challenging Hollywood, as he has always been since his early works. Today, in his mid-seventies, he remains a movie-maker who refuses the dominance of Hollywood, and wonderfully so!

Image From Tetro
  • Coppola's latest movie Twixt was screened at TIFF (Toronto 2012).
  • F. Ford Coppola's The Conversation won the Palm d'Or at Cannes 1974.
  • Coppola's Apocalypse Now won the Palm d'Or at Cannes 1979.
  • Decades after making The Godfather  films, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now, Coppola is still making independent-minded movies!
Watch Dementia 13 Full and Free:

 Coppola's Filmography : Tonight for Sure (1962) Dementia 13 (1963) Patton (1970) The Godfather (1972) American Grafitti (1973) The Godfather II (1974) The Conversation (1974) Apocalypse Now (1979) The Outsiders (1983) The Cotton Club (1984) Gardens of Stone (1989) The Godfather III (1990) The Rainmaker (1997) Youth Without Youth (2007) Tetro (2009) Twixt (2011).


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