10 July 2010
I don't know. Something about this just didn't work, but enough parts come close that it's an interesting film nonetheless... I think. The truth is, I respected a lot of what was happening, the recurring motifs, the complex familial relationships, the photography, the operatic plot -- but none of it ever felt right. I think all I can say is, Coppola didn't push it far enough into operatic surrealism for true operaticism, and he didn't keep it grounded enough in realistic characters and scenarios for it to feel like good, solid drama. For my money, he straddled a line and missed both targets. I never really cared about the characters enough to feel for them and their struggles, and the story just kept escalating and inflating into a bigger and bigger scope... nothing kept me anchored to what was happening (or kept it anchored to where I felt I was, on the ground watching it) so it felt more like it was just floating off away from me.
A thought I kept having throughout this story -- as it dealt loosely with themes of mortality, identity, creative pursuits, authorial voice, chronology, and family secrets (and did them all in Spain, mostly in Spanish) -- is this felt a lot like Francis Ford Coppola trying to make a Pedro Almódovar film, and lacking exactly the thing that makes Almódovar's films so magical. Even though you could see how this particular story has copious layers of soul-searching and personal inspiration to Coppola's life and family, it still felt more like Almódovar than Coppola to me.
I applaud him making a film that felt so loosely structured and European, but the result just doesn't hold up for me. I reiterate: it never felt real or true enough to be good drama, or firmly mad enough to be good melodrama.