Drinking Gallo

Step two in Francis Ford Coppola’s reinvention as a self-financed, off-Hollywood, personal filmmaker, Tetro — a moody job shot in carefully-framed widescreen and sumptuous, black-and-white chiaroscuro — is a marked advance over the Faustian, time-traveling absurdity Youth Without Youth (2007). Bennie Tetrocini (Alden Ehrenreich), an 18-year-old waiter on a luxury cruise-ship, takes shore leave in Buenos Aires, looking for his long-lost older brother Angelo (Vincent Gallo), whom he has idealized as a successful writer. Now calling himself Tetro — short for the family name but also Italian for “gloomy” — the exile is holed up in an atmospheric port slum and is not exactly thrilled to see baby brother. Never mind. Snoopy Bennie insinuates himself into his cranky brother’s life, enabling Gallo to throw a few choice tantrums, and begins rattling the skeletons in the family closet. Having directed the greatest family saga in Hollywood history, Coppola can be excused for mythologizing his own clan—“nothing in this movie ever really happened but it’s all true,” he told interviewers at Cannes. The narrative is a bit labored but, after decades of far more ponderous projects, Coppola has found his way home. However overwrought, Tetro is neither a project nor a package; it exudes enthusiasm and love of cinema. Coming from the 70-year-old who once bestrode Hollywood Boulevard like a colossus, Coppola’s new movie offers best possible evidence of youth without youth.
June 19-25, 2009

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