Monday, January 20, 2014

Twixt (2012): Manipulating with Tragedy

Twixt (2012)
dir: Francis Ford Coppola

While I haven't seen every Francis Ford Coppola movie since Apocalypse Now, I still assert that Coppola lost his way after that movie. The film shoot caused him to sort of lose his mind, and he never made a movie deserving of the same level of accolades.

Twixt is no exception. Coppola has been seriously unbankable since his ill-timed The Rainmaker, which came after audiences had been burned by one-too-many terrible John Grisham movies, and also by Jack and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Since The Rainmaker in 1997, Coppola has made only 3 movies, all self-financed, low-budget, and completely self-indulgent.

Twixt is the latest of these trifles from Coppola. In Twixt, Coppola displays all of the skill of a low-budget first feature, with all of the passion of a dead fish. Twixt isn't just terrible. It's terribly mediocre. But, what's worse is that Coppola has decided to use his own personal tragedy as a dare to get anybody to say something bad about the movie. It feels emotionally manipulative and quite irritating.

The following review will concern spoilers in order to discuss the personal tragedy at hand, and show how manipulative it actually is.

Twixt concerns Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer), a novelist who is now flopping after a few best sellers. Early in the film, he's called a bargain basement Stephen King. Hall stops in to a town for a book signing, for some unknown reason, as they don't have a bookstore, and he apparently did not read that the name of his stop was a hardware store. Or, something. I guess hardware stores have signings of bargain basement authors?

Hall is now an alcoholic, following the death of his daughter in a boating accident. The nature of the accident is revealed in the climax, where the daughter couldn't rouse Hall after an evening of drinking. But, he allowed his daughter and her friend to go boating, though he claims he didn't know it was speedboating. During their boating adventure, the driver navigates between two slow boats, but notices there is a towline and is able to duck in time. But, the daughter is not so lucky and dies.

In reality, in 1986, Francis Ford Coppola lost his son Gian-Carlo Coppola in a similar accident. Except, Gian-Carlo was 22 at the time. The friend Gian-Carlo went boating with was Griffin O'Neal, son of Ryan O'Neal, and star of FFC's then-filming movie Gardens of Stone, where he was later replaced by D.B. Sweeney (who is most known as the hockey player in The Cutting Edge). Francis Ford Coppola could be saying he's an alcoholic, and he does have a winery with a massively ornate entrance in Napa.

This mourning and death is only the emotional static of the real movie, in which Hall Baltimore navigates a dual world of reality and dreamscape. In reality, the town is divided by a river. One group is made of good backwater Christians, and the second group is a bunch of gawths who could be vampires. The second group totally brings to mind the South Park episode "The Ungroundable" where you keep expecting the goths to shout "We're fucking goth. Not douchey vampires!"

Apparently, the Christians and the Vampgoths are at war for the souls of the abandoned children and runaways, because a town of like 100 people would have so many of them. And, it seems that they, at one point, had 13 children who were once under the care of a molesty priest. But, the children rebelled and decided that maybe goth was better, and so the priest killed them all before they could escape his grasp. Except one.

That one comes to Hall in his dreamscape and tells him the history of the town, and asks him to solve the mystery in public. Even though she knows the whole story. She introduces herself as V. Or, Virginia. Or, maybe Vampira. Yeah. I didn't make this up.

There's also the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe, who haunts the dreamscape because he once slept in a hotel where there was once a murder years after he slept there. And, maybe because Hall pours whiskey on the plaque proclaiming this bit of ridiculousness.

As a final touch, there's a clocktower with 7 faces, none of which tells the correct time. Because the devil is in the clocktower. The devil causes Hall to confront his own guilt towards his daughter's death.

Oh, and one can't forget the Skype calls from Hall's wife where she is trying to sell his copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass because he can't make any money from not writing anything. And, they need to pay bills.

In the end, the whole movie is actually the manuscript for Hall's next book, or something like that. Whether it is reality or fiction is left up in the air. But, it is the final revelation of stupidity.

There might have been a good movie about the bleed between dream worlds and reality somewhere in Twixt. Dual worlds are sources of good movies, and video games. But, this isn't a good movie, and makes an almost mediocre video game.

Which makes sense, as Twixt was originally supposed to be a grand experiment by FFC in real-time editing with <a href="">Audience interaction</a>. In order for all the information to eventually be pieced out, and scenes to be pulled in and out, everything has to be kind of emotionally flat and generic, so that one scene doesn't affect the next scene too much. But, it doesn't have to be this deliberately cheap and terrible. Edgar Allen Poe's face as a moon, for example. Bad cinematography. The hoary Christians vs Goth cliche. The dead end of the devil in the clocktower (presumably a metaphor about losing track of time while an alcoholic).

But, then it is also a blatantly ugly film. Not ugly in the intentional sense, but amateurly ugly. It was also originally supposed to be a movie that was partially in 3D, though now its all been flattened to 2D. One of the ways that Coppola made it 3D was he filmed the background on one layer, but then filmed the actors on another. OK. But, the actors never felt like they were part of the same scene as the background. If you've ever watched the deliberately cheap movies, like The Room, where the actors are in front of a blue screen, and you can tell they are, then you know what I'm talking about. Nothing looks natural. And then Coppola manipulates the colors in the dream world in a manner that is like a blunt version of the red dress in Schindler's List.

In the end, Twixt is nothing more than self-indulgence at its worst. A cheap story told by an old storyteller who has lost track of his how stories were created. As well as the alcoholic story within the movie, and Coppola has made a terribly dull and unwatchable film that reveals how much contempt he has for his audience. His use of personal tragedy in such a manipulative manner dares the audience to say it was terrible. Or, if it was to be a tour, it would also be a form of masochism in reliving his son's death every night. Maybe that's why it felt so cheap. He couldn't deal with it. And, now he's asking us to watch how distanced he is.

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