Skip to main content

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).


Popular posts from this blog

MovieGlobe: Japan's Version of Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet (2007) JapanOriginal Article by: Fateh Mirghani-Japan

I have just finished watching the masterpiece of Shakespeare” Romeo and Juliet “in its Japanese version.
The quality of the movie is great and the soundtrack, injected with a little Japanese folklore music, has given it a sensational dimension and Eastern fascination!
Basically, the theme of the movie remains the same as the original play, and that has been a particular Japanese notion in dealing with other nations’ cultural products. Part of the reason may lay in Japan's sensitivity to other nations’cultural products- given the long standing historical disputes with its neighbours, and part of it may lay in a fierce sense of homogeneity that has come to characterize Japan as an island nation-state since time immemorial. Thus the Japanese, unlike the Americans, don’t seem to have the temerity to ‘Japanize’ others’ cultural stuff. The movie “Renaissance man”  can be cited as an example of American boldness. The …

Thursday Evening

Short Story by Ali Elmak* Translated by MM
Getting off the tram, he slipped. Was it the right or the left foot that skidded? It did not matter!  All that mattered really, all that he cared for at that hour, at that moment, was that he fell and soiled his pants. those characteristically beautiful white pants which he had preserved for Thursday evenings; for the soiree gatherings which started by hanging around in the market; loitering for short or long periods; then to the cinema house; any film and peace be upon him. Then, was this bad luck or what? Did he really need to take the tram for such a short distance? “That was a fair reward for your laziness” he said to himself. As for those pants, they were turned into a dusty colored thing. The more he shook those tiny particles off, the closer they became attached to the pants. Oh what a gloomy evening for you!  "Is this what concerned you?" thought he.

The posters of Alan Ladd and Van Heflin still stood their, at the cinema entrance.…

Movie Critic Review: Zorba The Greek (1964)

" All right, we go outside where God can see us better." Alexis Zorba "God has a very big heart but there is one sin he will not forgive; [slaps table] if a woman calls a man to her bed and he will not go. I know because a very wise old Turk told me." Alexis Zorba

Zorba (Anthony Quinn) with a lascivious look lays the gentle order, 'Two beds Madam. Without bugs!' Mme Hortense defiantly tilts her head and answers proudly, 'Mme has not THE bugs!'

The bookish intellectual Basil  (Alan Bates) who has appeared unaffected by the collective vertigo experienced on the boat taking them to Crete, did not seem interested in this outward and stimulated first-time exchange between his newly-found companion, a robust natural philosopher named Alexis Zorbas and this old lady who rushed  to offer them her hospitality services in her own (Marriot) of a dilapidated house on this island of pathos and the poor. Mme Hortense then treats the c…