This was written by my friend Murtaza Ali who is an amazing cine-blogger. He has published this post on his website as well. Do read it when you get time!
Twixt (2011): American filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola’s bizarre yet commendable exercise in pretence
Twixt is the latest film by renowned American filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2011. The movie stars Val Kilmer in the lead role of Hall Baltimore—an alcoholic writer on the verge of a creative breakdown. Set in an unknown small town, Twixt’s narrative begins with the mention of a heptahedron clock tower with seven clocks, each of which always shows a different time. Some kind of devilish influence is accounted for this strange phenomenon—of which the tower itself is said to be the centre—by the town residents. Hall Baltimore, who is on a visit to the town as part of his book tour, gets involved in a series of bizarre incidents involving a young girl named Virginia. The event eventually helps him overcome his creative void and hence avoid an incipient marital turmoil.
There was a time when Francis Ford Coppola’s name was synonymous with American Cinema. His movies epitomized the 20th century America. His eccentric, cynical, larger-than-life characters became the embodiment of the modern American men for the whole world: be it Harry Caul [The Conversation, 1974], Colonel Walter E. Kurtz [Apocalypse Now, 1979], or Don Vito Corleone [The Godfather, 1972]. With as many as five Oscars (excluding the esteemed Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award that he received in 2010), two Palme d’Or and countless other prestigious awards under his belt, Francis Ford Coppola arguably is the most celebrated filmmaker of our time. 1970s saw Coppola going from strength to strength as he delivered one blockbuster after another. 80s turned out to be mixed affair for Coppola. But, his great reputation helped him endure the decade, for it is said: “Form is temporary, class is permanent.” However, 90s posed unprecedented challenges for Coppola as success became more farfetched than ever.
After directing Rainmaker in the year 1997, Coppola decided to take a break from active filmmaking so as to solely experiment with motifs that appealed to his deepest creative urges. The first product of Coppola’s self-indulgence was the enigmatic Youth Without Youth (2007)—a story of a timid professor metamorphosed by a cataclysmic event. Coppola backed it up with yet another ambitious venture: Tetro (2009). While these movies may not be significant from the entertainment point of view, their academic significance cannot be overlooked. The movies serve to be classic examples of unrestraint creativity in cinema—a formidable overture to the limitless scope of cinema. Twixt is no different in this regard. It’s essentially an experimental film with surrealistic undertones that concocts several motifs and transcends genres in a haphazard, unrefined, manner. Twixt is a horror thriller with a self-contradictory, unaccountable comical touch that one generally associates with the works of Franz Kafka. In fact, it wouldn’t be unfair to treat the movie as an exercise in pretence—something that even Coppola wouldn’t be reluctant to acknowledge.
Twixt can as well be looked upon as Coppola’s biographical attempt inasmuch as it tries to capture the story of a writer doing through a difficult phase in his life. While Hall Baltimore’s plight starts with the accidental death of his daughter during a boating adventure, Coppola’s decline as a filmmaker started with the death of his eldest son, back in 1987. In Twixt, Hall Baltimore leverages on the bizarre events and his own wild fantasies—in which he often seeks advice and guidance from his idol, the American literally genius, Edgar Allan Poe— to come out of his literary void. Similarly, Coppola’s decision to disassociate himself from commercial filmmaking can be interpreted as a deliberate attempt on his part to escape the expectations of his ever so demanding producers. Coppola’s hermitic descent into self-indulgence is characteristic of a perturbed artist desperately on the lookout for some divine source of inspiration.
Overall, Twixt is as an attempt of a lost artist, in great dilemma over the question of his own genius, desperate to prove his mastery over his art to the whole world. Twixt is a bizarre, beautiful, visually stunning, and deeply convoluted work of cinema that owing to a deliberate attempt on the part of its maker gets lost in translation. But, it’s this nebulosity that separates art from exact science, and that’s precisely where Coppola succeeds. Another factor that makes Twixt memorable is Val Kilmer’s portrayal of Hall Baltimore. Kilmer, who delivers his best performance in years, is well supported by the rest of the cast led by Ben Chaplin who effortlessly plays Edgar Allan Poe. Twixt by no means is in the same league as Coppola’s greatest works and in many ways is even inferior to Youth Without Youth and Tetro, but nonetheless it is an honest attempt on the part of an artist to discover his lost brilliance. While the conventional film enthusiasts can afford to give the film a miss, it’s a must watch for hardcore Coppola fans. 7/10