Cannes 2009: Tetro takes flight

Francis Ford Coppola’s Buenos Aires-set drama Tetro opened the Directors’ Fortnight last night.

Like Youth Without Youth , Tetro marks Coppola’s return to his roots: intimate, small-scale moviemaking, this time self-financed. There is a spirit of adventure to it, a palpable exhilaration at fleeing the studios’ grasp.

And while it is an insignificant film when compared to the director’s towering works of the 1970s, it is a relief and a joy to see Coppola determinedly cutting loose.

The tale of two squabbling brothers (Vincent Gallo, Alden Ehrenreich) who have fled America to escape their overbearing father, it conjures the ghost of Tennessee Williams with its seething familial angst, skeletons tumbling out of closets to shatter pregnant pauses.

Forcefully acted and sumptuously shot in gleaming black and white, it is an artistic picture that occasionally – nay, frequently – strains too hard for credibility, as Coppola’s script shoots for nothing less than tragedy.

But any pretensions are easy to forgive given the undoubted sincerity of the project, and Coppola should be applauded for both taking a gamble on Gallo and for introducing 18-year-old Ehrenreich to the screen.

The former is totally believable as a damaged, volatile artist, the latter a deadringer for DiCaprio – and seemingly possessing a good deal of Leo’s talent, too.