Despite being one of the most prolific and most awarded filmmakers in American film history, Francis Ford Coppola has only produced two films in the first decade of the new millennium. Few filmmakers have the ability to fully fund their own works, and Coppola’s self-financed Tetro is the type of film that would never be made inside the modern studio system, or at least not with such artistic control.
Bennie Tetrocini (Alden Ehrenreich) has decided to seek out his lost older brother, Tetro (Vincent Gallo), who has left the family years earlier, promising to reunite with Bennie. Tetro is a playwright who has set aside his masterwork and fled to a new life in Argentina with his girlfriend Miranda (Carmen Maura). Bennie’s unexpected visit begins to re-open many of
Coppola has created a fine film indeed. Not one shot is wasted and each scene has meaning and depth that aids the plot into revealing the multiple reunions scattered throughout. While the bulk of the film is in black and white, flashbacks are not in widescreen and are filmed in color. This choice may point to the idea that the flashbacks are to assist in clarifying the past. Typically, we are presented with the opposite, color and widescreen with black and white flashbacks.
Lights, headlights, flashbulbs are scoured all throughout the film, a motif that helps us shed light on this scarred family. Tetro himself is not interested in the fame or glory that his family is known for, and rejects the notion of being a part of a family of renown artists. This is similar to Coppola’s family, which is perhaps one of the most prolific families in all of filmmaking. There is no doubt that Tetro is highly autobiographical, too many of the clues and hints regarding Coppola’s family are there.
The controversial casting of Vincent Gallo is undeniable, but his performance is uncanny as he brings the damaged character of Tetro to life. Alden Ehrenreich may in fact be a younger clone of Leonardo Dicaprio, in both looks and innate acting ability.
While the film is set in a modern era, there is a timelessness to the film’s setting. It is a timelessness that can be found in many of Coppola’s works. The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, nor Apocalypse Now could ever be considered dated, and neither should Tetro. It is Coppola’s ability to produce films that are not attached to the generation they were filmed in that makes him a great director. A great film retains, or even gains replay value over time. In the future, Tetro may be should be revered among Coppola’s filmography.