Collins’ Crypt - We Lost Our Chance To Re-Edit TWIXT

BC takes a look at Francis Ford Coppola's 2011 thriller.

I rarely venture into Hall H at Comic-Con, as the long lines (often in the hot sun) aren't usually worth the "reward" for me personally. I do not begrudge those that do; if anything I'm a bit jealous - I wish I loved something enough to sleep overnight next to a bunch of strangers on a San Diego sidewalk just for a chance to see it. But in 2011, you could waltz right into the place for a sneak preview of Twixt, the new film from Francis Ford Coppola. Granted, Comic-Con attendees aren't exactly the key demo for the new film from the director of The Godfather, but still, there's something kind of depressing that less than 1/20th of the people swarming the convention center are interested in his newest venture. Hell, there were more people in there to see Ed Burns hawk One Missed Call a few years back.

Making it more depressing was that Coppola (with star Val "ex-Batman" Kilmer in tow, another thing that probably should have drawn more interest) wasn't just showing a scene or two from his new movie, like just about everyone else that took the stage that day - he was actually trying to introduce a whole new mode of interactivity for cinemagoers. Referred to as "Live Editing", the idea behind Twixt was that he would take the film on tour not unlike Kevin Smith did with his Red State (tickets would presumably be cheaper, however), but rather than go across the street for a drink until it was time for the Q&A, he would remix the film using his iPad, based on audience feedback. The example he used (which was a bit clunky) was sort of sizzle reel with a few brief scenes, where the Con audience seemed to really enjoy a bit where Val Kilmer, suffering writer's block, was (likely) improvising different ideas for an opening sentence. With a few button clicks (and some technical difficulties), we saw the bit again, only this time with more riffs (including Kilmer's Brando impression, either in tribute to The Godfather for Coppola, or Dr. Moreau for himself). We didn't get to see it in action, but presumably if a particular audience didn't find it amusing at all, he could make it even shorter, and perhaps later find that a certain scene would play better than it did the night before.

At the time (again, this was the summer of 2011), the tour was planned for that fall, but sadly it never happened - and now it seemingly never will. Next month the film will hit DVD/Blu-Ray, and it's already available on iTunes and Amazon. Regardless of how you feel about the film itself (I'll get to that soon), it's a damn shame that something this bold and potentially game-changing (which had 3D sequences to boot) never even got a chance to happen. The "canon" version of the film played a few festivals in September of that year, and the word coming out was poisonous - perhaps that derailed interest from studios and exhibitors alike? I looked for a while but couldn't find anything about the plug being pulled; the film's official Facebook page hasn't even been updated to let people know that it's coming out on DVD soon (yet they told folks about The Conversation hitting blu-ray multiple times in 2012, the last time the page was active), and the Wikipedia doesn't even MENTION the tour. Considering how nutty the idea was (and the presentation itself, in which Coppola began singing along to the film's grating "theme song", "Nosferatu") I'd be half convinced I imagined the whole thing if I didn't still have my Edgar Allan Poe mask/3D glasses that were given to us as we sat down for the event.

Insult to injury, the Blu-ray will have almost no bonus features whatsoever - just a making of "documentary" (running time unknown; might just be a fluff piece) by Coppola's granddaughter Gia. But that's it; no 3D scenes, no commentary, and (most annoying), no deleted scenes from what has to be a wealth of extra material in order to make use of the live editing gimmick. Obviously the plot had to be more or less set in stone, but with scenes in the finished version rarely lasting more than 2-3 minutes, it stands to reason that any of them could be extended with more dialogue and/or action. Since you can rent/buy the movie on iTunes now, there's no real reason to wait until July 30th if you're curious - assuming that the doc isn't exactly the next Hearts of Darkness, you'll be paying extra for the same thing.

And unless you're a Coppola fanatic that owns all of his films regardless of quality (let's see those Jack DVDs!), I can't imagine why anyone would want own a hard copy, as there is no need to watch this one again and again. I can give it some leeway since it was just the vessel for an experiment, necessitating a loose narrative that could be tinkered with again and again, but even with that in mind it's a messy chore of a film, one that couldn't possibly be saved by some reedited moments. The disappointingly generic setup involves horror writer Hall Baltimore (Kilmer) coming to a small town on his unsuccessful book tour and getting roped into solving a cold case murder mystery by the sheriff (Bruce Dern, who also appeared in the orphaned 3D film The Hole). It's the sort of thing you've seen before, and Coppola seemingly knows this, which is why he adds in a bunch of "quirky" characters (including one played by Father Guido Sarducci himself, Don Novello) and even quirkier plot elements, like a clock tower that has seven faces, each telling a different time.

Perhaps with a bigger budget and more appealing characters (Kilmer's been in worse junk over the past decade, but he's still past the point where he can count on our affinity for him to make up for such a loser character; hell even George Clooney might have trouble making us care about Hall's journey) this all could have worked, but it's pretty much DOA. Coppola's cramped direction (and some not very convincing green-screen scenes) make the entire thing resemble the cutscenes from a mid to late 90s CD-ROM game, and the campy performances never seem to gel with the rather dark story (involving several child murders). The worst scene in Godfather III is award-worthy compared to bits like the Ouija board sequence, where the planchette floats off the board in the middle of revealing the killer. The mystery is also horribly botched; there's pretty much only one suspect given the time period where the murders took place, and when they finally get around to revealing it it's with all the flair of someone admitting they took the last cookie from the jar.

To be fair, it does have a few strong moments - if I was still watching horror movies every day I'm sure there would have been 1-2 worse movies that week. I was charmed by the fact that Kilmer's real-life ex (Joanne Whalley) played his estranged wife here, giving their fight scenes (conducted via Skype) a bit of extra amusing tension, and David Paymer shines in his few moments as Kilmer's publisher. Dern seems to be enjoying himself, and the movie never stops indulging in David Lynch-ian wannabe moments, like a guy randomly explaining that Hitler was responsible for Daylight Savings Time (not true), or Dern explaining the difference between a bird house and a bat house. And in a dream sequence (I think?), a girl with braces turns into a vampire, with the lengthening fangs sending the pieces of metal flying out of her mouth - it's a nice bit (one that would have been a fun 3D gimmick, though even if the scene WAS one of the couple of 3D sequences, the scene is shot in a way that they'd be flying AWAY from the camera, not toward it). Basically, it's a bad movie, no doubt about it, but every now and then there will be a spark that briefly makes up for the fact that you're watching what seems to be the result of Coppola getting inspired while played The 7th Guest as a Twin Peaks marathon played in the background.

And that's the weirdest thing - it's actually kind of personal. Sure, from an aesthetic standpoint there isn't a shred of the genius that made some of the greatest films of all time, but you can't deny Coppola was putting some autobiographical bits into his narrative. As Devin pointed out, Kilmer's character is being forced to indulge in something he's not all that interested in out of a need to pay his bills, not unlike Coppola himself has done a few times during his career. And (SPOILER) near the end we discover that Kilmer's character lost his child to a boating accident, just as Coppola himself did in 1986 (the accident is even identical - the boat with his daughter passes between two other boats, unaware that there is a towline connecting them, which is exactly what happened to Coppola's son Gian-Carlo). It actually makes the failure of the project all the more depressing - at least if it was just some paycheck he was cashing by directing someone else's script at the request of a studio, he could shrug it off. But in 25 years I'm pretty sure this is his first explicit mention of his son's death within the storyline of one of his films (he's touched on the basic idea of losing a child, but never actually shot a sequence exactly mirroring his own tragedy as far as I know)- and it'll end up being the least seen entry in his filmography when all is said and done.

*Sigh.*

Certainly this isn't the first high-ish profile movie to get a busted release, but I can't think of anything more ironically depressing: Twixt is a movie that only exists to show off technology and inspire people to go to the movies for something unique, and it's going direct to video in an all but completely barebones presentation. And it's a shame that the film's plans have been swept under the rug even in press; someday a guy is going to stumble across it on Netflix and wonder why Francis Ford Coppola directed what appears to be a web-series pilot based on a video game they never played. But the optimist in me hopes that someone tries again someday; I can see it being useful for say, an Apatow style comedy, where the audience can be treated to longer sequences of Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen insulting each other, but reduce Katherine Heigl to a cameo. Twixt, on the other hand... even at 88 minutes it was an endurance, so unless Coppola could sense complete boredom and quickly use his iPad to find a way to get it down to 70 minutes or so, I think the idea deserves a better vessel. It's like the launch games for a new video game console - they're mostly designed to show off what the thing can do, not to be the long-lasting classic titles that make the console worth remembering. We didn't write off the Wii because Sports was only amusing for 20 minutes - don't let Twixt be the alpha and omega of such an intriguing concept.

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