Francis Ford Coppola's latest is an expressionistic mini-masterpiece of grotesque. With 3D!
Sunday, September 11, 2 p.m.
Princess Of Wales Theatre (300 King Street West)
Monday, September 12, 2 p.m.
Scotiabank Theatre 13 (259 Richmond Street West)
Sunday, September 18, 10 a.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 (350 King Street West)
Francis Ford Coppola’s gothic horror spookhouse throws back, yes, to his Roger Corman–produced debut, Dementia 13, but goes even further, to the touring shock-and-awe extra-cinematic exercises of shlockmeister William Castle. A tone-setting intro narration by Tom Waits lays the scene in the half-horse American town of Swan Valley, where an author of pulpy thrillers, Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer), arrives for a book signing. Pushed off into the corner of the local hardware store, Baltimore’s only local reader is rumpled sheriff Bobby LaGrange (Bruce Dern, hitting his one note with exuberant aplomb). Sucked in by LaGrange’s tales of local child murder, Baltimore holes up in a local motel to wade through the town’s mists of macabre local history (which includes poisoned lemonade, a wonky clock tower, and vampirism), while communing with the ghost of one-time Swan Valley visitor Edgar Allan Poe (Ben Chaplin) in his dreams, soliciting help with the ending of his new novel, The Vampire Executioner.
Coppola’s last film, Tetro, suggested a bend towards operatic wackiness that achieves its grandiose crescendo in Twixt. His use of digital cinematography is exquisite, with the film’s uncanny texture stoking Twixt‘s fever pitches. Kilmer turns in a virtuoso performance in a scene of writer’s-blocked mania alone, and elsewhere his chubby half-assedness seems to suit the film’s knowing un-seriousness. Yes, Twixt is dumb, a bit trifling, and nothing like the kind of film you’d expect from Coppola if you still expect the Coppola of 30 or 40 years ago. But this is daring filmmaking, and rollicking good fun. And if the ingenious cue to put on your 3D glasses doesn’t tip you off, Coppola is perfectly aware of how silly he’s being.