Las Vegas. Frannie and Hank, who have been together for some years, have troubles in their relationship each has a fling with a more glamorous partner, a singing waiter and a circus girl, but eventually get back together.
Like the Godfather saga and Apocalypse Now, this is among Francis Coppola’s perpetual works-in-progress: each re-release seems to be a different cut, and there’s a sense that Coppola has several more rethinks coming.
At once a stage-shot ‘small’ film and a technically innovative endeavour intended to establish American Zoetrope as an old-style Hollywood studio, it flopped on its 1982 release but its bittersweet charm has improved with age. An unconventional musical, it is structured around a superb Tom Waits song score (performed by Waits and Crystal Gayle, allegedly as Zeus and Hera) and has Gene Kelly-choreographed crowd scenes which aren’t quite dance numbers. Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and production designer Dean Tavoularis work movie magic by bringing to life a huge set which represents a sparkling vision of Las Vegas and the surrounding desert.
Teri Garr and Frederic Forrest, given the rare chance to carry a film, are sometimes downright annoying but always thoroughly human and believable. Against the glittery charms of Nastassia Kinski, caught on film during the years when she was literally the most desirable woman in the world, and the ‘Rudolf Vaselino’ good-humoured virility of Raul Julia, a mirage in a tuxedo and a powerhouse in the sack, the leads should be blown away – but they bring so much to the party that, an audience can’t help but invest hopes in their survival as a couple.
It’s a melancholy, mature film, trying hard to argue that its down-to-earth lovers are not just settling for each other, and that the abandonment of romantic fantasy can lead to deeper romance.
This has matured over the years into a very likeable and moving romance with much to recommend it.