4/5 MUST must see SEE
dir-scr-prd Francis Ford Coppola
with Vincent Gallo, Alden Ehrenreich, Maribel Verdú, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Carmen Maura, Mike Amigorena, Rodrigo De la Serna, Leticia Bredice, Sofia Castiglione, Francesca De Sapio, Erica Rivas, Silvia Perez
release US 11.Jun.09, UK 25.Jun.10
09/Argentina Zoetropa 2h07
He ain't heavy: Gallo and Ehrenreich

verdu brandauer coppola
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Tetro Coppola delivers his most passionate film in years with this astonishing drama set in Argentina. Stylish, involving and intensely personal, the film really gets under the skin with its emotional story and powerfully visual tone.

Just before his 18th birthday, cruise ship waiter Bennie (Ehrenreich) gets some shore leave in Buenos Aires and immediately looks up his estranged brother Angelo (Gallo), a moody artist who now goes by the name Tetro and lives with his longsuffering girlfriend Miranda (Verdu). Their reunion is rather awkward, and it's not just because of the years that have passed and the tensions that remain around their relationships with their famous father (Brandauer). The problem is that Bennie thinks he can get Tetro back on track.

Shot in velvety black and white, the film looks magical and timeless. It's set in modern day, but harks back to the golden age of Fellini with its lively moods, vibrant personalities and an earthy mix of joy and sorrow. Gallo and Verdu give complex and sympathetic performances, and this is a strong break-out for Ehrenreich, who almost eerily resembles a young Leonardo DiCaprio. Side roles for the fabulous Maura (as a celebrity critic), Amigorena (as a vain theatre actor-director) and De la Serna (as a cafe owner with a stormy marriage) add texture, warmth and humour.

Coppola orchestrates the elements like a master, weaving in luridly coloured flashbacks and fantasy sequences that continually catch us off-guard. The sound mix is dense and very clever, and scenes are photographed through windows, mirrors and shadows to add perspective. What's most impressive is that, even with all of this indulgent artistry, the film never feels pretentious. Even echoes of Hitchcock and Dali are effortless.

That said, the plot stalls along the way, as Tetro stubbornly digs his heels in while Bennie drifts away and we learn more about their father and his brother (also Brandauer). But these melodramatic segments weave together for a vivid exploration of four men grappling with their identities and with living up to the early promise of their talent. Clearly this is something Coppola understands personally, and he brings this insight to the moving, inventive conclusion. Yes, the film is often rather bonkers, but it's also a thing of real beauty.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 21.Apr.10

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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall