Curtains part to turn the round spotlight into a full moon, an announcement for the illusionism of Francis Ford Coppola's iridescent folly -- the world as "live cinema," a delicate mechanism, rain, mountains, and skies recreated under the ceiling of Zoetrope studios. Emotions cannot be faked, however, and Teri Garr and Frederic Forrest, now tired of each other on their fifth anniversary living together on the edges of Las Vegas, rush into the night, always illuminated by neon and fireworks, to chase their fantasies. Garr, alternately frumpy and alluring, wants tropical adventures, so Raul Julia, a Latin lounge lizard, gives her his card on the bustling streets; Forrest meanwhile puffs his hair for German circus lynx Nastassja Kinski, who materializes in an oversized martini glass, then, voraciously billboard-sized, invites little boy blue to come blow his horn. The couple's relationship is dissolving, but the two can't stay out of each other's minds during the reveries -- Forrest bitches to pal Harry Dean Stanton after the break-up, and Coppola darkens the foreground to find Garr and Lainie Kazan in the background, a scrim separating (or is it uniting) the lovers. Painted backgrounds and superimpositions, glowing light and mellifluous movement, choreographed tumult and Kinski's Teutonic Tinkerbell disappearing, "like spit on a griddle": "all tinsel," goes Forrest, anticipating the critics who would call the affair pretty but oh so empty. Actually, Coppola's gamble pays off dividends throughout; a technological feat, the past of Powell, Visconti and Minnelli along with the future of live TV, a lunar musical built on parallels and contrasts. The insistence of artifice and the realness of feelings provide, as with New York, New York, the running disconnect, the characters' uneasy movements in the purposely entrapping mise-en-scène lent extra layers by the lack of stardust of Garr and Forrest. Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle crooning/commentating on the soundtrack should have alerted the critics, who were scarcely able to differentiate between artificiality and superficiality, but no matter -- Coppola's fairy-table reincarnates old-Hollywood magic only to expose the frayed nerves underneath, the accentuated tinsel of the image turned real by the aching of tone-deaf Forrest warbling to Garr at the airport. Cinematography by Vittorio Storaro. Production design by Dean Tavoularis.
--- Fernando F. Croce