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This is a guest post by Patricia Garza.

On Netflix Instant Queue the other day, I watched a peculiar and interesting 80s movie I had often heard about but never seen. Coming off the success of both Godfather films and the critically successful gamble/hot mess of a production that was Apocalypse Now, there must have been extremely high expectations for Francis Ford Coppola’s next film. What a shock it must have been to his fans, then, to see his next movie: an extremely stylized romantic musical called One from the Heart.

Released in 1982, the film was an outright box office disaster, grossing less than $400,000 on its opening weekend. This would have been less of a problem had the budget not ballooned from around $2 million to around $26 million, but Coppola (in a hangover perhaps from the quixotic jungle quest that was Apocalypse Now) became more and more ambitious about the technical aspects of the production, which though set in Las Vegas, was filmed entirely on soundstages at his new American Zoetrope studio.

The financial results were atrocious, as mentioned: the total gross of $636,796 makes it one of the biggest money-losers in Hollywood history relative to its budget

The aesthetic results, though? Well, to be honest, they’re pretty remarkable. The neon palette and extreme artificiality of the film result in a beautiful, garish, boldly expressionist piece of cinema. The memorable score by Tom Waits (accompanied by country singer Crystal Gayle) does a great job of setting the film’s boozily romantic, jazzy mood.

The plot and characters are a mixed bag, unfortunately. A couple named Hank and Frannie (played by Frederic Forrest and Teri Garr) fight on the 4th of July, over his dullness and her longing for adventure, and they decide to break up. They both seek solace in the form of sexual adventure with enticing, exotic new partners (played by Natassja Kinski and Raul Julia respectively). In the dead center of the film Coppola stages a big group dance sequence in the streets, clearly Coppola’s attempt at the grandeur of something like An American in Paris or West Side Story. It falls a bit flat, and certainly well short of those Hollywood high-water marks. Still, you’ve got to give him credit for trying.

All in all, I recommend One from the Heart, with certain qualifications. If you’re interested in the art of cinematography, or a big Tom Waits (or Coppola) fan, or you want to see Teri Garr naked, or you’re just a hopeless romantic without a cynical bone in your body, you should definitely check it out.

It remains first and foremost a historical curiosity, part of the story of the ambitious New Hollywood generation, some of whom enjoyed fairly steady success (Spielberg and Scorsese) and some of whom flew a little too close to the sun. This film could be paired with Heaven’s Gate in a film history class. Not that it could destroy the mighty Coppola’s career as that film did Cimino’s, but it did force him to make a whole lot of his future movies out of purely commercial considerations, to try to recoup the cost. One from the Heart is a flawed, ill-fated, fascinating gem.

Patricia Garza is a full-time freelance blogger who often writes about regionally accredited online colleges and other important aspects of higher education. Please leave her some comments!