Sunday, September 11, 2011


Baltimore with his ghostly visitor played by Elle Fanning
Twixt (2011) directed by Francis Ford Coppola, minutes
Princess of Wales Theatre, September 11, 2011, 2pm

Who knew, that once upon a time, Francis Ford Coppola made horror films for producer Roger Corman? Cameron Bailey, who introduced the film today, suggested in his TIFF review that it represents a sort of return to his roots. Suggested by a dream that Coppola had in Istanbul, the concept of the film intrigued me.

Twixt's protagonist is Hall Baltimore (here an appropriately schlubby Val Kilmer), a struggling writer of thrillers about witchcraft who is flogging copies of his most recent book while popping into small towns with no interest and fewer bookstores. In Swan Valley, Baltimore is approached by the local sheriff (the slithery Bruce Dern) who tries to convince Baltimore to co-write a thriller about the mysterious death of a local girl whom he contends was murdered by some Goth kids who have a encampment across the lake.

While initially resistant, Baltimore meets the murdered girl in his dreams (as well as Edgar Allan Poe who serves a sort of Virgil to Baltimore) who tempts him with the story of twelve murdered children buried in the now abandoned Chickering Hotel from decades ago. Some of the images are quite beautiful - like that of the twelve ghostly children ascending from the grave.

The story is an odd mixture of dream fantasies and real life horror - Baltimore's dreams reveal the secrets of the town and how the children were murdered. The sinister sheriff who tries to convince Baltimore that a serial killer is on the loose knows more about the murdered girl than he lets on.

There are two portions of the film that you view in 3D - a key middle section and the end. It ends on a slightly comic note although there is little in the film that is actually comic. The end is jarring, it does not fit for me.

Despite the enthusiastic response the audience gave the film it seemed an odd hodge podge of subplots. I don't want to reveal too much but there is a significant subplot about Baltimore's guilt over his daughter's death in a boating accident with obvious shades of the gruesome death of Coppola's own son Gian-Carlo in a boating accident in 1986. There is the serial killer on the loose in Swan Valley and Baltimore's own struggles to overcome writer's block.

Coppola was there for the Q&A with Val Kilmer, looking svelte and cool in a terrific suit and in a great frame of mind. Coppola seems a bit fragile now, a bit tentative, less confident. It saddens me ... this is the director of The Conversation, The Godfather trilogy, One from the Heart, Apocalypse Now. It's impossible to live up to that reputation, not even Coppola himself can do that now.

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