Tetro

Tetro movie poster
MPAA rating: NR
Genre: Drama
In Coppola's latest film, a younger brother, Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich), travels to Buenos Aires to find his older brother (Vincent Gallo), who was once a promising writer.
Starring: Vincent Gallo, Maribel VerdĂș, Alden Ehrenreich
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
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Editorial Review

Francis Ford Coppola has created a movie (based on his first original screenplay since "The Conversation") that aspires to grand opera -- and probably should be considered successful, given how much of grand opera is confusing and has enough plotline to hang itself. No one cares that "Tosca" is a bloody mess, of course, because it has a score by Puccini.

"Tetro" doesn't have that.

It does have Vincent Gallo (strike two), an actor who can immediately render drama into farce and comedy into God knows what. In a bit of stunt casting on Coppola's part, Gallo plays the title character, a tortured writer who has given up on himself. Tetro is never happy, stewing in his own frustrated juices in the demimonde of Buenos Aires. So he reacts harshly to the unexpected arrival of his young brother, Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich), who wants to know why Tetro abandoned him.

Every indication is that Bennie is on a fool's errand. But Coppola's efforts here are all about elaborate gestures, exalted feeling and high-decibel angst. Tetro and Bennie have different mothers but are both sons of the world-renowned conductor and egomaniac Carlo Tetrocini (Klaus Maria Brandauer), who delivers the movie's most memorable line: "There's room for only one genius in this family." Unlike certain Coppola clans of the past, its members aren't killing one another. But it's a thought.

The film looks fantastic, the high-definition black-and-white that connotes the present (color identifies the past). It should be noted that "Tetro" is a vast improvement over Coppola's last opus, "Youth Without Youth," although the 70-year-old director commits the same mortal sin as any 22-year-old auteur: He doesn't have enough story to support his characters' anxieties. The great Spanish actress Carmen Maura is the one performer with a clue, playing a mysterious Argentine critic for maximum campiness. But it's too little, as is the incidental music scored by the great Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov.

"Tetro" has no internal tension and should have been a comedy.

-John Anderson