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Tetro (2009)

1 rating: 5.0
A movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Even assuming one agrees thatTetrois Francis Ford Coppola's "best sinceApocalypse Now," as one pundit put it, that's not saying a whole lot--the three decades since the latter film, the culmination of a decade (the 1970s) in which Coppola also turned … see full wiki

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1 review about Tetro (2009)

A Crown Jewel of Cinema

  • May 30, 2010
Francis For Coppola has created a major cinematic miracle in his TETRO. The film is hauntingly beautiful to see, to hear, and to challenge the minds of the viewers. This is what great cinema is all about - taking the risks of storytelling to the impossible extremes available to only the great writer/directors such as Federico Fellini, Alain Resnais, Alexander Sokurov, François Truffaut, Jean Renoir, Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, and Luis Buñuel. Heady company, this, but Coppola rises to the occasion with this multilayered exploration of family secrets and the dissection of the concept of 'genius' - all in the quiet guise of autobiographical references that make this work more than simply one of his many successful films. He has the grace to select artists of his own caliber to assist him: the cinematography (as complex a marriage of rich black and white and stunning color as anyone has achieved) is by Mihai Malaimare, Jr.; the musical score is by the brilliant Argentinean composer Osvaldo Golijov whose atmospheric compositions mesh perfectly with the influential moments of Puccini, Brahms, Offenbach, and Delibes; and a group of actors whose range of talent spans decades of experience and levels of finesse. It all works to one end, and that end is a celebration of a master's art of making memorable film.

The setting is Buenos Aires where Tetro (Vincent Gallo), a writer of plays and novels, all incomplete and written in code and confusing manner - never having published any of his output, lives with Miranda (the brilliant Maribel Verdú), a doctor at the 'insane asylum' where she met Tetro as her patient. Into this shadowy place steps Benjamin (Alden Ehrenreich) who has run away from military school and is working as a waiter on a cruise ship docked in Buenos Aires for repairs. Benjamin seeks out his half brother Angelo (Tetro's discarded name) to try to find out about his confusing and dysfunctional family. Benjamin worships his older brother who taught him all the important aspects of art and life before Tetro disappeared, shunning the family that birthed him. Miranda convinces Tetro to allow Benjamin to stay with them despite the fact that Benjamin represents the family he deserted. Benjamin discovers the writings of his brother and manages to de-code them and writes an ending for a play that Tetro never finished. The play is produced by a small but adventuresome theater run by one Jose (Rodrigo De la Serna) and enacted by Abelardo (Mike Amigorena) and Josefina (Leticia Brédice). Upon hearing this Tetro is enraged and begins to relate the truth about the family that produced both boys - crux of which is the father figure Carlo Tetracini (Klaus Maria Brandauer) who sole claim to 'genius' in the family is his power as one of the most revered orchestral and opera conductors in the world. The remainder of this complex story unwinds the secrets long held within the family and the truths discovered by Benjamin alter his life and his perception of family and love and commitment.

Many of the secretive portions of the story are revealed not only in flashbacks of the family, but also in full color dance and theater sequences focusing on 'Coppelia' and 'Tales of Hoffmann', subtle suggestions to the audience of the truths yet put into words by the actors. These sidebars are brilliantly executed and designed and performed and beg for more time on the screen. If the last portion of the film is a bit slow (a flaw comfortably corrected by the presence of the great Carmen Maura as the preeminent judge of taste and talent who goes by the symbolic name of 'Alone'), this gives the audience time to assimilate all of the information that has been inexorably revealed throughout the course of the film. TETRO is filmmaking at its finest. It demands much from the audience, but its rewards are considerable. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, May 10

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