Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Screenplay: Francis Ford Coppola, Armyan Bernstein
Starring: Frederic Forrest, Teri Garr, Raul Julia, Nastassja Kinski, Lainie Kazan, Harry Dean Stanton
Country: USA
Running Time: 93 min (Reprise) 107 min (theatrical)
Year: 1981
BBFC Certificate: 12

After the nightmare of making Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola wanted a change of tact. He longed to quickly make a film in a studio where everything was controlled and contained and he could go home after a shoot to recuperate. However, Coppola being Coppola, he had to make this much more elaborate than it sounded.

His idea was to use live production techniques more common to theatre and TV but blend these with a beautifully shot, cinematic look. This approach was to be put towards the making of Coppola’s musical drama, One From the Heart.

This wasn’t just a concept for a film though. Coppola wanted to change the way he and possibly the rest of Hollywood, made movies. He bought a studio lot and set up Zoetrope Studios with a vision for making films completely on a soundstage like the old days of Hollywood, but with further technical advancements that would allow him to make several titles each year with a stock company of talent in front of and behind the cameras.

This cutting edge technology included an early form of computer aided previsualization, which people saw as science fiction when Coppola first suggested it but now is seen as the norm, particularly for special-effects-heavy productions. He also developed a high-end playback system that allowed him to watch the material from a specially designed van whilst it was being shot. The vehicle also allowed for quick video edits to be assembled during production, which was unheard of back then.

Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro was provided with a fancy new lighting desk too, which allowed for intricate dimming setups during a shot.

All this innovation, matched with the launch of a brand new studio and Coppola’s usual extravagances (he constructed a Las Vegas strip and an airport on the soundstage), meant that finances were stretched very thin. As such, the film and Zoetrope Studios themselves veered very close to bankruptcy on several occasions. Any non-union cast and crew members were even asked to work at reduced pay at one point, to allow production to go ahead. MGM, who were originally going to distribute the film, backed out too.

When One From the Heart eventually came out, not helped by all the negative press surrounding its spiralling costs, a botched preview screening and the lack of support from new distributors Paramount, flopped badly.

Not only did audiences steer clear of this extravagant experiment, the critics were pretty cruel too. Coppola’s hopes and dreams were shattered and the film was dubbed an overly ambitious disaster. Zoetrope’s Hollywood studio was sold and Coppola’s once skyrocketing career was practically reset in one fell swoop.

Over time, however, some have stood up for One From the Heart, claiming it to be a misunderstood classic or, at the very least, a curious experiment in new production techniques. Enough support was behind it to prompt Coppola to get the film remastered in 4K, with the director tinkering with the edit to create a more streamlined version he calls One From the Heart: Reprise.

I’m a huge fan of Coppola’s 70s output and One From the Heart has been a film I’ve been curious about but have never ventured to watch. So, when I was offered a chance to review Studiocanal’s epic release of both versions of the film on UHD, Blu-ray, digital and DVD, I figured there was no time like the present.

With the film’s technical ambitions and spiralling costs, you’d be forgiven for thinking that these were in service of a grand, complex story. However, One From the Heart’s narrative is extremely simple.

The film is about a couple whose relationship has grown stale after 5 years. Hank (Frederic Forrest) is a no-nonsense mechanic who’s happy living a standard life, getting a mortgage, having kids etc. Frannie (Teri Garr), however, is a dreamer who longs for adventure and excitement. She wants to get away and live life to the full.

These differences come to a head on their anniversary and the pair decide to split. Angry and frustrated, they both head off into the arms of new idealised partners. Hank hooks up with the attractive young circus performer Leila (Nastassja Kinski) and Frannie gets together with the impulsive and dashing Ray (Raul Julia).

We intercut between the two, as they enjoy a night of near fantasy. However, neither can still quite shake their feelings for one another.

One From the Heart certainly is a curious beast, with its intimate, well-trodden tale of broken hearts playing out on such a grand canvas. However, I found myself (mostly) falling for its charms.

First and foremost, you can’t get away from the fact that this is a stunningly beautiful film from a purely visual perspective. Vittorio Storaro is probably the best cinematographer in the business and this sees him at the top of his game. Colours are eye-poppingly bold and long takes are incorporated throughout, using complex, gliding camera movement to keep that sense of the theatrical, whilst adding a cinematic grace to it all. Stage scrims are put to extraordinary use too, allowing the audience to move seamlessly between Hank and Frannie’s stories within a single shot.

In keeping with the theatrical tradition, sets, or at least backdrops, aren’t always made to look realistic either. There’s a purposeful artificiality to it all that fits the ‘too good to be true’ new romances the characters find themselves in.

The way music is used is interesting too. One From the Heart is usually called a musical, but most of the songs play out in the background, rather than having characters burst into song. They’re utilised much more heavily than in most non-musicals though and the lyrics quite closely correlate with what’s going on in the story.

Tom Waits provides the music, which was a big selling point for me, as I’m a huge fan of the artist. His smoky bar-room ballad score and soundtrack here is interesting in how it comes at a turning point in Waits’ career, directly before he took a sharp turn towards more experimental music with his seminal ‘Swordfishtrombones’ album (a personal favourite of mine). He duets with Crystal Gale on most of the songs, making for a different vibe to much of his recorded output. You’d think it’d be difficult for anyone to sing alongside Waits, with his unique vocal style, but the silky smooth tones of Gale contrast nicely, further emphasising the conflict between the couple at the heart of the film.

The only straight-up musical sequence with a cast member singing for a prolonged period of time is for the song ‘Little Boy Blue’, which is a little disappointing. Kinski doesn’t quite pull off the vocals, which are very much written for a Waits-like singer and some of the visual effects are a little dated.

Something else I also struggled with was the Hank character, in general. Whilst Forrest’s performance is strong, I found his character pretty loathsome whilst I got the feeling we were supposed to sympathise with him. Most notably, the end of the film seems to suggest Hank and Frannie’s reconciliation should be a happy one. This didn’t settle well with me at all, though perhaps that’s the point. Taking the denouement as a bittersweet one could well be intentional and gives the straightforward narrative a slight edge as it draws to a close, depending on how you look at it.

I liked the performances overall though. Teri Garr is immensely lovable (another reason why I felt Hank didn’t deserve Frannie) and Raul Julia is perfect as her charismatic lover. It’s hard not to fall for Nastassja Kinski’s charms either and she deserves extra kudos for pulling off some impressive circus skills for real. Lainie Kazan and Harry Dean Stanton also do great work as Frannie and Hank’s long-suffering friends.

Overall then, whilst I felt the film fizzled out a little in its final act, not helped by my dislike of one of the characters, I found its wrapping of a simple tale in a lush dressing a curious concoction and I couldn’t help but get swept up in the film’s glorious presentation and often captivating performances. One From the Heart is definitely worth seeing, even if it doesn’t always entirely work.


One From the Heart will return to UK cinemas on February 16th 2024 in the new Reprise cut. This version, along with the 1982 cut and a bumper package of brand-new and archive extras will be available to own on a special 4-disc 4K UHD, 2-disc Blu-Ray and Digital for the first time from March 4th. The film will also be released on DVD on the same day.

I watched the Blu-ray release and I thought it looked incredible. The image, which retains the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, is impressively sharp and the colours are rich and sumptuous. It sounds great too.


UHD & Blu-ray Disc 1
– UHD & Blu-ray Disc 1
– New The Look of One From the Heart
– New The Cast of One From The Heart
– New The Choreography of One From the Heart
– New Reinventing the Musical: Baz Luhrmann on One From The Heart
– New One from the Heart: Reprise, Restoration Comparison
– New 2024 trailer

UHD & Blu-ray Disc 2
– Francis Ford Coppola feature audio commentary
– The Making Of One From the Heart
– The Dream Studio
– The Electronic Cinema
– Tom Waits and the Music From One From The Heart
– Deleted Scenes
– Videotaped Rehearsals
– Francis Ford Coppola speaks to the Exhibitors
– Press Conference at the Studio
– This One’s From The Heart Music Video
– Stop Motion Demo
– Tom Waits Score – Alternate Tracks
– 2003 Theatrical trailer
– 1982 Theatrical trailer

– New The Look of One From the Heart
– New The Cast of One From The Heart
– New The Choreography of One From the Heart
– New Reinventing the Musical: Baz Luhrmann on One From The Heart
– New 2024 trailer

Studiocanal have pulled out all the stops here to deliver a package bursting at the seams with extras. I’ll give my brief thoughts on some of what’s included.

Starting with the new material on disc 1, you’ve got ‘The Look of One From the Heart’. This has Coppola and Vittorio Storaro discuss how they collaborated in crafting this colourful ode to the theatrical tradition of presenting drama. With plenty of archival material included too it helps you appreciate the hard work that went into the production.

In ‘The Cast of…’ we get archival interviews with the cast and Coppola, alongside behind-the-scenes footage. Once again, it offers a valuable insight into the process.

‘The Choreography of…’ uses archival interviews to discuss Gene Kelly’s involvement in the production. He acted as a consultant, whilst Kenny Ortega handled the actual choreography. More behind-the-scenes material allows you to see the cast in training, including Kinski learning how to walk on a tightrope.

Baz Luhrmann’s piece sees him gushing over the film, talking, in particular, about how it’s a unique reinvention of the musical.

There’s also a restoration comparison piece, which shows how impressive this new transfer is.

Coppola has always been one of the better directors at doing audio commentaries and he doesn’t disappoint here in his track on the second disc. He discusses his original intentions and inspirations as well as explains many of the interesting techniques used to make this unique film.

There’s a half-hour documentary included too, ‘The Dream Studio’, that I’d highly recommend everyone watch. It digs the dirt on what went wrong with the production and how it closed a Hollywood studio.

An archival 23-minute making of makes use of a lot of the material we’ve seen elsewhere in charting the film’s production. It’s a handy coverall though, for those without the time or patience to work through everything here. It doesn’t go into the financial problems though.

The stop motion featurette is worth a look too. It explains how they made the film’s remarkable opening sequence. It helps you appreciate it even more.

The deleted scenes add up to about 34 minutes and a couple include a fascinating commentary by Coppola. They’re well worth a watch, with some alternative versions of key scenes. These are often less ambitious.

It’s great to see some of the raw rehearsal material too, allowing you to get a glimpse into the creative process.

There’s also a wonderful archival piece on Tom Waits’ music in the film. It contains interviews with him and Gayle as well as material showing the composer in the studio and on set.

One short featurette looks at the technological innovations Coppola was introducing during the production, particularly his ‘electronic cinema’ concept. He was an early proponent for using computers in film production and One From the Heart was when he started putting some of these new ideas into practice. The piece also looks at Storaro’s use of an elaborate computerised lighting dimmer on set. It helps you appreciate that, whilst the film was somewhat of a financial disaster, it did help push new innovations forward in filmmaking that are closer to what we use today.

There’s also a recorded introduction Coppola made for audiences watching an early test screening of the film. This was one that ended up getting early negative reviews leaked before the film was finished, so has historical value.

So, Studiocanal have put together a very impressive package for a film that deserves to be watched and not simply remembered as the film that almost ruined Francis Ford Coppola’s career. Highly recommended.


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