It’s kind of amazing to me that a director like Francis Ford Coppola, perhaps one of the most recognized names in all of the film medium, can write and direct a film today and then no one really hears of it or goes to see it. Such was the case with Tetro (and, really, Youth Without Youth as well), Coppola’s 2009 film that saw a theatrical release in the US in October of the same year and graced a mere sixteen screens before bowing out. Granted, Coppola’s work hasn’t been the easiest to market as of late, but still the name should really sell itself and in the case of Tetro there really would’ve probably been a market for the film had it at least gone to even the local independent theaters rather than the chains. Regardless, Tetro garnered enough attention to receive significantly higher marks than his previous film (which I saw and am still not 100% convinced I saw the entire film, it was so random at times) and now Lionsgate has released it on Blu-ray for those to enjoy.
Tetro is the hauntingly beautiful drama written and directed by five-time Academy Award® winner Francis Ford Coppola (Patton, Original Screenplay, 1970; The Godfather, Adapted Screenplay, 1972; The Godfather: Part II, Best Picture, Directing, Adapted Screenplay, 1974) that critics can’t stop praising. The San Francisco Chronicle called the film “the most beautiful looking movie you’ll see all year.” “It feels good to see Coppola back in form” praised Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, and “there isn’t a frame of this raw and riveting movie that Coppola doesn’t invest with feeling” hailed Rolling Stone. Starring Vincent Gallo (Buffalo ’66) and set in Argentina, Tetro tells the bittersweet story of two brothers, of family lost and found and the conflicts and secrets within a highly creative Italian immigrant family. The film is Francis Ford Coppola’s first original screenplay since The Conversation, and he has called it his most autobiographical work ever.
The thing I’ve noticed with the majority of Coppola’s works (as of late) is that you notice the visual and directorial aspects of it more than any other director. Such is the case with Tetro as the black and white stylized nature of the film not only create a jarring contrast between the colorful films that generally grace my TV, but also the composure, lighting, and general set up of some of the shots in the film is just magnificent. You have to wonder if Coppola didn’t work years just plotting out how it was shot, as each sequence seems to be as unique and daring as the last. It truly is one of the more visually stunning films I’ve seen in recent years and quite honestly the last time I felt so enraptured with a films way of directing was when I saw Coppola’s last film.
Unlike that last film (Youth Without Youth) however, I could actually follow along with the story in this one remarkably well. It’s a fairly simple production which has a little bit too much hype built into its final resolution, but even in the end I cannot say for certain how I feel about the film’s plot. It’s a very polarizing story and it will definitely cleave the viewers down the middle about how they may feel in the end, but for some reason as uneasy as I felt about the film I still just found myself really dwelling on it long after I finished watching it—which no doubt was caused by my unsure feeling, but it’s definitely one of the more hearty films I’ve seen in awhile as it really did stick with me after seeing it.
Overall Tetro was an engaging film and while it may have dragged on unnecessarily in some parts of the story, it was engaging just for the directing and visuals. Coppola (and the cinematographer) really deserver massive accolades for the work done in this film; on one hand it’s incredibly simple, but on the other it’s just so wonderfully composed and executed that your jaw cannot help but drop. Recommended.
Tetro arrives on Blu-ray via Lionsgate in a standard Elite Amaray case. Thankfully it receives the typical Lionsgate treatment with a fantastic representation not only on the technical side but also with a fairly healthy selection of extras as well. There are no inserts or fancy exterior slipcover, but the menu system is elegantly done and easy to navigate. The cover art distances itself from the theatrical one sheet a bit, but it still embodies the style that Coppola uses in the film.
Video is an AVC encoded 1080p presentation and as previously mentioned it’s the visuals that will likely hook you into the film more than anything. Coppola’s manipulation of film is unparalleled and it’s explicitly evident here that he hasn’t lost his touch…although some may find it to be a bit too overwhelming at times as it can create for some odd visuals at times. Still, the black and white transfer is immaculate, with an absolutely pristine looking print from start to finish. The majority of the film is in black and white, although there are a few blown-out and contrasted color sequences in the film as well, but they are so stylized as well that it’s hard to even critique those segments either. Overall Lionsgate did an absolutely fantastic transfer from start to finish.
Audio is a DTS-HD 5.1 MA mix and being a black and white drama you wouldn’t expect a lot of surprising elements to be dispersed from your speakers, but once again Coppola surprises. While it is true for the most part that everything in the field spills out of the front channels, there are sequences where the score (by Osvaldo Golijov) really just wraps itself into the entire 5.1 mix and surges through the surrounds. It’s a really deep mix for a dramatic film and was probably one of the more surprising elements of the film for me.
• Audio commentary with Francis Ford Coppola and actor Alden Ehrenreich
• “The Rehearsal Process” featurette – documenting Coppola’s extensive preparation with the cast
• “Fausta: A Drama in Verse” – extended version of the play featured within the movie
• “Mihai Malaimare, Jr: The Cinematography” featurette
• “The Ballet” featurette – a look at the film’s choreography and the use of dance in the film
• “Osvaldo Golijov: Music Born from the Film” featurette
• “La Colifata: Siempre Fui Loco” featurette – a behind the scenes look at the taping of Tetro at La Colifata
All total (commentary not included) there’s about forty-five minutes worth of special features here (all presented in 1080i). There’s a lot of cool on-set and behind-the-scenes footage between the featurettes as well as input from Copolla himself, although fans will most likely find themselves more enraptured by the audio commentary. The two participants were recorded separately so there was no bouncing off one another, but oddly enough their segments intertwine quite nicely (although who’s to say the order of their sentiments weren’t adjusted as well). Overall it’s a solid collection of extras and makes this a Recommended release for fans of Coppola. I hesitate to recommend it any further than that, however, as it is quite a jarring experience if you don’t allow yourself to be wrapped up in Coppola’s vision.
Tetro is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.