Francis Ford Coppola's Tetro Trailer Slays With Style
As befits the maker of four consecutive American masterpieces in the '70s, nothing can possibly override Francis Ford Coppola's lifetime exemption from irrelevance. Which isn't to say he's reliable; his much-anticipated return from a 10-year hiatus ended anticlimactically in 2007 with the incomprehensible, navel-dwelling drama Youth Without Youth. But Coppola wasn't about to disappear again, turning instead to Tetro, his first original screenplay since The Conversation and your official Vincent Gallo fix for the next two minutes.
Tetro's first trailer hints suggestively at what audiences should look forward to when the film premieres this month at Cannes (and opens June 11 in the States) -- namely, an actual story with actual conflicts, however hamfisted. Coppola plants his drama of family rivalry in Argentina, where young Naval serviceman Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich) goes hunting for his reclusive older brother Tetro (Gallo). The latter softens his reluctance to engage, with Bennie finally chipping away at the madness and paranoia left over from Tetro's relationship with their father.
That's where Coppola loses you, turning on the quick-cut, black-and-white charm that serves little purpose beyond affirming his style. Intertitles remind the viewer that "Every family has a past," and "Every family has a secret" (who knew?), while old-fashioned optical effects (not unlike those punctuating Youth Without Youth) amp up the eeriness without any real context. Freakier still: Gallo's modulation, which complements Ehrenreich's brooding monotone to surprising effect.
Coppola is an independent filmmaker in the most literal sense, self-financing and now even distributing his projects with funds from his wine-making empire. That kind of autonomy can be counterproductive in the wrong hands, and the self-aware excess of the "personal film" may yet erode the Oscar-winner's own legacy even further than such execrable output as 1997's Jack. You can see the danger here amid the flashes of beauty and passion, reminding viewers all too well of the never-ending hangover of perfection.
VERDICT: Apprehensive, but sold.