Top positive review
26 people found this helpful
You'll love it or hate it
on 7 June 2009
Well, I've just watched it again after about 15 years and I've got a lump in my throat, if a somewhat gritty, manly sort of one. I watched it with My wife and daughter and they were both mostly unimpressed. To be fair, I can see why because there are too many elements in the film that you are either going to be passionate about or else just lukewarm.
So first, the plot and emotional content. This is a film for people who've been in relationships where you each can't live with or without the other person. You try and break out, connect up with other people, but end up running back and doing it all all over again. Love at its most destructive, but also arguably at its most passionate, and able to bring a bit of poetic nobility into otherwise humdrum lives. If you've never been there, or have and don't want to be reminded, or just level headed enough to look on at such shenanigins with bemusement, then this film is not going to cut it with you, and might, as it did for my wife, just be irritating. I did have the questionable good-fortune to endure such a relationship in my younger, wilder past, and hence the lump in my throat.
Next, there is the music, it being after all a musical. The soundtrack is primarily provided by the gruff, low grumble of Tom Waits at the piano, with various degrees of support from string and classic big band elements. Some of the songs are structured as male/female dialogue with Crystal Gayle, completely severed from her customary disco context, providing a gorgeous counterpart to Waits. The lyrics are both witty and gritty, edgy and moving, about what you would expect from Waits for those that know him. For parts of the film the soundtrack opens out into an exotic mix of blues, latin, big band and much else to accompany the strange journeys that the central characters take through a hyper real Las Vegas. This sound track is another thing that you're going to like very much or feel quite uncomfortable with. A unifying element throughout is sassy brass playing edgy big-band blues. If you're not going to be comfortable with that then you probably won't like the movie.
The actors are all great, Frederick Forrest and Terri Garr both provide very committed performances as the central lovers, Hank and Frannie, locked into their cycle of bittersweet destruction. The witheringly gorgeous Natassia Kinski, at her most gloriously iconic, is devastating as the girl through whom Forrest tries to make his escape. Harry Dean Stanton is his usual hilariously quirky self as Hank's sidekick, Mo. Of course Kinski and Stanton would go on in a couple of years to star in Wim Wenders' 'silent epic' Paris, Texas.
The other star of the film is the strange surreal desert city of Las Vegas, though this is a hyperbolic, almost surreal, Las Vegas created in the studios, and which is presumably why the film bankrupted Copolla in its making. Even my wife and daughter had to admit that the cinematography was outstanding throughout, and at times mind-blowing. I think it's fair to to say that even if you don't enjoy other aspects of the movie, if you have any feel for cinematographic art, then you will be glad to have seen it just once for the amazing sets and camerawork.
So there you are. I think that shgould give you some idea of how you will get along with this movie. In my opinion this was a very brave project for Coppola to undertake, and was presumably a labour of love, for it is not entirely unpredictable that it would never enjoy general success. But, as one of those who have immense affection for this movie, I'm really grateful he took the plunge.