Classic Cuts: One From The Heart

Other | Friday 9th January 2015 | Gareth

Francis Ford Coppola's ruinous masterpiece One From The Heart finds love in a hopeless place



Francis Ford Coppola is one of the most influential and innovative filmmakers of the 20th century. The maverick head of the so called movie brats that remade Hollywood in the 1970s is famous for The Godfather trilogy and personally initiating the careers of an endless stream of legendary talent including Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford. The man’s legacy is such that he even got a shout out on a Kanye West record (“Francis Foreign Car Coppola” the most Kanyesque pun on 2012’s Cruel Summer). Coppola’s reputation as a studio filmmaker after The Godfather II was nominated for eleven Oscars reached an unprecedented zenith, affording him exceptional creative freedom, directly leading to two spectacular ‘failures’.


The first, Apocalypse Now, a superlative adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and one of the most idiosyncratic war movies ever made, was a personal failure, almost killing the director with million dollar fuck ups permeating virtually every aspect of production. The second, an arguably rarer beast, is One From The Heart. Heart is a musical shot entirely on the sound stages of Coppola’s own production company American Zoetrope, responsible for bankrupting the filmmaker and unlike Apocalypse Now was tragically considered an artistic failure. One From The Heart is one of my favourite movies. I discovered it through the experimental writing of Masha Tupitsyn. Tupitsyn’s writing often looks at cinema through the philosophical framework of love, she writes,


“Movie love. The look of love. How movies do love. What movies have done to love. How we love or don’t love because of the movies. How we let ourselves love in movies but not in real life. What came first, movie love or real love? Which one is real and which one isn’t? Which one still exists? Which one doesn’t? One From The Heart is about all these things, whether it means to be or not.”



Heart has been widely criticised for being “underwritten” (whatever that means) but for me the film aestheticises love better than any other, juxtaposing gorgeous, superimposed images of two lovers who split seemingly for good; inarticulate dreamers whose innermost desires are expressed through the unconventional method of narrative through music, with Tom Waits' jazz score and drug-addled croon (vocally aided by country singer Crystal Gayle) communicating the latent emotions of the twin protagonists.


Canadian independent filmmaker Isiah Medina once told me he saw the future of cinema in the dissolves Coppola uses which are as ravishing as anything I’ve seen in Hollywood. Distressingly the legacy of this opulent masterpiece is one of turmoil. According to the director, the films he made during the rest of the 1980s and most of the 1990's (The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, The Cotton Club, The Godfather Part III, Jack and The Rainmaker) were done to pay off the debts incurred by One from the Heart, making it the catalyst for an entire career trajectory that is widely ridiculed and universally misunderstood.


“I tried to tell a love story in a setting that is like love itself… It’s set in Las Vegas, as a city that’s glitter one second and depression the next.” The film follows this driving philosophy through to its end with its neon saturated backdrop embodying the heightened emotional intensity of love in all its forms. This purity, both stylistic and emotional, is overwhelmingly sensual, evocative of every make up and break up you’ve ever had. A profound oddity in both its construction and its beauty, One From The Heart deserves another look in and if the ending doesn’t induce tears I strongly recommend checking your pulse for signs of life. 


Old Trailer (1982):

New Trailer (2003):