Sunday, September 11, 2011

Coppola experiments with 3D...but for five minutes only

By Kevin Lally

While we wait for the 3D debuts of Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese later this year, another of the grand movie masters who dominated the 1970s is unveiling his vision for the stereoscopic medium at Twixt_04_medium the Toronto Film Festival. Francis Ford Coppola is back with his third feature following a ten-year absence that began in 1998, and the twobrief 3D sequences in it aren't the only visual flourishes on display. The Edgar Allen Poe-inspired ghost story/murder mystery Twixt evokes memories of Coppola's 1983 Rumble Fish, his boldly experimental youth drama that took so much heat at the time mainly because it was such a radical,offbeatdeparture from his epic 1970s successes. That film's sparseadditions of splashes of color to its black-and-white palette are given expanded treatment in Twixt, and the results are oftenquite beautiful: a black-and-white Poe (Ben Chaplin)holding a lantern that shines golden light; red candles and window panessupplying the only color in a cleric's classroom; and of course, red blood trickling down at the climax. The3D only appears during two scenes of duress for the lead character Hall Baltimore, an alcoholic, blocked horror author played by a puffy Val Kilmer, but their images of steep wooden stairs, rotating gears, andclose-ups of Kilmer loomingover the audience prove that often with3D, less can be more.

Those who will never forgive Coppola for abandoning commercial cinema won't be interested, but the clearly low-budget Twixt does have its felicities, such as its portrait of a haunted, David Lynch-like small town where the hardware store doubles as abookstore, to Kilmer's Brando and James Mason impersonations and his drunken struggle to write the first sentence of his new novel, to Bruce Dern's insinuating sheriff with delusions of literary grandeur. There's also an unsettlinglypersonal plot thread involving the long-ago boating death of Baltimore's teenage daughter, a painful reflection of Coppola's own similar tragic loss of his young son. Likely to be self-distributed, Twixt is too eccentric and insular to attract amainstream audience, but Coppola is still innovating and capable of creating striking images.

On a more commercial note, Norwegian director Morten Tyldum delivered a true Hollywood calling card in Toronto with Headhunters, a diabolically clever, outrageously grisly thriller based on the novel by popular Nordic author Jo Nesbo and produced by Yellow Bird, the same people behind Sweden's wildly successful Millennium Trilogy. Aksel Hennie stars as a corporate headhunter who really makes the big bucks from his secret life as an art-theft mastermind. But when he targets a victim with dark secrets of his own (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau of HBO's "Games of Thrones"), there's hell to pay in some of the funniest and most shocking black-comedy moments you'll see onscreen all year. The director and star, beaming, were both at the Sunday night screening, with Hennie making the astute observation that because Scandinavian movies don't have budgets for big explosions, "We find things inside people that explode."

Magnolia Pictures will be handling U.S. distribution, and they've got a winner for genre audiences and beyond. And we'll surely be hearing more from Morten Tyldum.

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