When an 18 yr-old half-brother shows up on an Argentine doorstep, two siblings find they are separated by more than just their twenty year age difference . . . and that some long-buried family secrets they’ve been hiding from each other can heal as well as harm. That’s the set up for this visually extravagant pic from Francis Ford Coppola, shot in handsome, if over-studied b&w Scope, with flashbacks, fantasy sequences & a bit of Powell/Pressburger’s TALES OF HOFFMAN appearing in blazing color. Coming from a family of artistic over-achievers, this story of writers, performers & musicians undoubtedly has personal resonance for Coppola. (His own father was a classical music conductor/composer and everyone else in the clan seems either in front or behind the camera.) But the story quickly devolves into a gerryrigged collection of emotional cliches, and the lux visuals don’t feel specifically connected to this particular story. Perhaps if the acting were stronger, or consistently heightened. But the nice characters are unmemorable while Vincent Gallo, as the noxious artistic genius, hardly seems human, let alone related to anyone. The film, as a whole, isn’t as self-defeating as Coppola’s previous bit of pretentious navel-gazing nonsense (YOUTH FOR YOUTH/’07), but the only haunting image comes at the end of the opening credits when Francis Ford Coppola’s name as producer, writer & director fails to properly register before being obliterated by a beam of light from a passing bus. A prophetic moment.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Brandon de Wilde specialized in playing kid brother to scapegrace dazzlers. HUD/’63 w/ Paul Newman is the best (and best known), but ALL FALL DOWN/’62 lets us see a side of Warren Beatty he rarely allowed to show thru the glamorous facade.