Monday Movie: One from the Heart, by David Bax
Thanks to my friendship with Tom Waits superfan Tyler Smith, I was familiar with the songs of Francis Ford Coppola’s One from the Heart years before I ever saw the movie. In fact, all I really knew about the film was its reputation as a massive flop. Watching it for the first time in my early twenties may have been my first lesson in the fact that movies that get branded as disasters do so on monetary terms alone and that the label is not an indicator of quality. On the contrary, such films are often among the most interesting, either as massive statements of personal vision (Heaven’s Gate) or a collection of fascinatingly indecipherable idiosyncrasies (Hudson Hawk).
Whichever of those One from the Heart is, it’s clear from the stunning opening sequence (which anticipates Blade Runner 2049 by over 35 years) that Coppola is holding nothing in reserve. That’s the thing about him. Every time he gains career capital, he spends it all at once with seemingly no regrets. It hasn’t always been great for his pocketbook but, as movie fans, we’re the richer for it.
In that way, Coppola is not unlike Orson Welles, his most immediately comparable predecessor in American cinema. Welles famously compared directing in Hollywood to, “the biggest electric train set any boy ever had.” With One from the Heart, Coppola built the whole train set himself and we get to watch him set it ablaze with the pure, white flame of his love of the movies.