Toronto 2011 Review: Francis Ford Coppola’s TWIXT
Coppola's latest is not a great film in the classical sense, but it’s wildly entertaining, very offbeat and an interesting mediation on how the story teller pervades his own personal life into his own stories.
In a festival absolutely stuffed full of films from all over the world, it’s natural that you are going to encounter a few oddities. It’s inevitable in fact, what with the varying culture clashes, budgets, levels of the industry each film comes from etc. Considering some of the films I have seen at the festival it may come as surprising that the weirdest of the bunch comes from Francis Ford Coppola.
Francis Ford Coppola is the sort of director that the word “eclectic” was created for. Many of you will think “The Godfather” or “Apocalypse Now” or perhaps even “Rumble Fish” when his name is uttered. Maybe you’re an awesome person and only think of “Jack” when his name is whispered down the halls. The fact that the man who made “Jack” also made “The Godfather” is mind boggling enough, let alone the man now standing before us with Twixt.
For those of you who have followed the Coppola saga, you will be aware that he has resurfaced of late, chirping on about how he needs to make films of a personal nature because he felt that he lost his spark. Maybe because he’s going a bit senile, but judging by his last couple of films; his “personal nature” is pretty bloody weird.
Twixt is apparently based on a alcohol induced dream Coppola once had and it certainly feels like that. Apparently Coppola woke up before it ended and made the film because he wanted it to reach a natural conclusion. Now, any remotely sane person will identify that choosing how to end a dream by making a film out of it is absolute hogwash, but that’s not going to stop a man such as Mr Coppola is it?!?
Or Val Kilmer for that matter, who randomly decides to grace us with his presence after languishing in the straight to DVD bargain bucket because his career revival criminally didn’t come after the marvelous Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Val Kilmer plays Hall Baltimore, a failing novelist (“bargain basement Stephen King”) who has made his fame writing a pulpy Witchcraft series of novels. He’s drinking heavily and in the middle of a book tour, which isn’t providing many results, with his wife and publisher nagging him to write his next witchcraft novel, something he really doesn’t want to do. He arrives in Swann Valley, a middle of nowhere town, that doesn’t even have a book store, so he’s crammed in the corner of a hardware store. Here he meets the psycho sheriff Bobby LaGrange (Bruce Dern) who suggests collaborating on a new novel called “The Vampire Executions” based off of a recent murder that’s happened in the town where a young girl (Elle Fanning) has been butchered with a gigantic stake.
Needless to say, the film just becomes odder as it progresses, with Hall Baltimore being thrust into a dream world at midnight where the town turns out to be full of restless souls, including that of Edgar Allan Poe (Ben Chaplin) who cryptically unravels the story and acts as Hall’s guide through the dream realm.
Ultimately Twixt, is a bizarre film that is a mediation on storytelling and the story teller’s influence on that. It’s a genre mash up in terms of vampire fiction/gothic period drama/murder mystery and schlocky horror film with everything from ghosts, vampires and ridiculously over the top fountains of blood.
Quite often the film is hilarious, a particular stand out scene featuring a increasingly sozzled Hal struggle over that crucial first line. As a writer, I know exactly where he’s coming from so it made the scene even more amusing.
However, as cheap and kooky as it looks there is a serious undercurrent. Hall is struggling to redress the balance in his life after his daughter was killed in a horrific boating accident that he still blames himself for. This runs disturbingly parallel to Coppola’s own son, who suffered a similar fate back in 1986. While some may worry that it would derail the film or even make it seem pretentious, Coppola somehow pulls it off and creates a very charming film.
Honestly, it’s not a great film in the classical sense, but it’s wildly entertaining, very offbeat and an interesting mediation on how the story teller pervades his own personal life into his own stories. It also serves as a send up of a ton of genre tropes; its two 3D scenes, mocking modern horror films (and their tendency to feature really pointless 3D) really rather well. Yes, the film looks extremely cheap, but it pulls it off.
Twixt is essentially a cult classic film that won’t appeal to everyone. Coppola should be praised for making the most interesting film he’s made in years, even if it does leave a bad taste in your mouth. (Not mine!).
IMDB tells us Twixt will be released in the U.S. this year but no U.K. date yet.