Toronto 2011: Francis Ford Coppola unveils 3-D film 'Twixt'
Francis Ford Coppola's 3-D vampire movie "Twixt" made its world premiere Sunday afternoon at the Toronto International Film Festival, giving audiences a look at how the celebrated director of "Apocalypse Now" and "The Godfather" transformed a booze-soaked dream into a very dream-like film.
The film stars Val Kilmer as a washed-up writer of books about witches and Elle Fanning as a young female vampire; its conceit came to Coppola in a vivid sleep he had while in Istanbul, after a night of imbibing the strong Turkish liquor known as raki.
Filmed close to Coppola's wine country stamping grounds in Northern California, in towns such as Guerneville and in Clear Lake County, "Twixt" is set in a place that is likely to please fans of "Twin Peaks."
Kilmer's Hall Baltimore is a "bargain-basement Stephen King" who's on a self-run book tour, with a box of novels and a case of whisky in the back of his station wagon. He comes to the town of Swann Valley, a strange little place inhabited by off-kilter characters, including Sheriff Bobby LaGrange (Bruce Dern).
There's no bookstore in town, so Baltimore is signing copies of his novel at the local hardware store, where he runs into LaGrange. LaGrange wants to team up with Baltimore to write a new book, a proposal that Baltimore is not super-enthused about until he hears LaGrange's idea and decides it just might work. Baltimore is down on his luck, hectored by his wife because they're broke and tormented by the death of his teenage daughter in a boating accident. (A detail that mirrors an event in Coppola's own life; his eldest son perished in a boating accident in the 1980s.)
Baltimore looks for further inspiration in his sleep, and encounters none other than Edgar Allan Poe in his dreams (a development that oddly echoes Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," which also featured a tortured modern writer chatting with literary characters of the past). The scenes with Baltimore and Poe are ethereal, with an almost animated feel and a mostly black-and-white palette, with a few splashes of color -- the vampire's lips, Poe's yellow lantern.
Baltimore's attempts to get started on the outline of his novel are unexpectedly comedic, with Kilmer channeling various voices and characters (including a black basketball player) as he tries to write his opening lines.
There are two 3-D sequences in the film, one in the middle and one at the end. Coppola cleverly signals to audience members when to don their spectacles, with a sweep of a pair of 3-D glasses coming across the screen at the appropriate moment.
In an extended question-and-answer session prior to the screening, Coppola said the idea for "Twixt" came to him in "the wackiest of ways" after a night of drinking raki. Awakened by the Islamic call to prayer, he dictated the germ of the story into his iPhone and then developed the idea from there.
In explaining his influences for the film, Coppola said that he had always liked Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "Young Goodman Brown" and that he had just read a collection of Poe's short works before coming upon the idea for "Twixt." "So I guess [Poe] was lurking there for me," he said.
Coppola said that "Twixt" was "a lot of fun to make" and that he hoped it would be enjoyed in the same spirit. Just how soon audiences beyond Toronto will get a look at "Twixt," though, is unclear -- the film is still seeking a distributor.
-- Julie Makinen in Toronto
Photo: Val Kilmer and Elle Fanning in "Twixt." Courtesy: Toronto International Film Festival