Twixt (2011)

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The kind of film a once-great filmmaker makes when nobody is looking. Twixt was almost immediately thrown under the bus when it premiered on VOD platforms a few years back but it’s far better than that.

There’s something thrilling about seeing a movie where anything could happen. Twixtstarts with a Tom Waits scene-setting voice over and plunges us into a little town that must be only a few zip-codes away from Twin Peaks. Val Kilmer plays a washed up novelist making a stop on his book-signing “tour” but ends up scrawling just one signature in a hardware store. That’s when the town’s Sheriff (Bruce Dern) shows up and takes Kilmer to the local morgue to check out the body of a local girl with a big stake rammed through her heart.

From there the film gets more complicated, bleeding dreams into a netherworld where a ghostly Elle Fanning shows up as well as an apparition of Edgar Allen Poe. It’s a slapdash kind of film that feels light on plot but incredibly heavy on substance, themes and visual ideas. There’s a lot of stuff here we’ve seen before; the town with a murderous past, locations haunted by crime, the writer in need of one last hit, but seeing it come from a late-career Coppola makes it pretty fascinating. I’m fairly certain this is the kind of film Coppola has been wanting to make throughout his entire career, not Twixt specifically but films of this ilk that are experimental, imaginative, singular and low-key. He has always been more drawn to films with an arthouse sensibility. It’s undoubtedly made by the same man who fucked with visual form in films like Rumble Fish and One For the Heart decades earlier and who got his start directing cheapie shlock for Roger Corman.

The pin-sharp digital photography takes a bit of getting used to at first – the lighting is all so crisp and garish – but only because our eye is so trained for celluloid photography. All of the fantastic elements appear cheap and green-screeny too but honestly, by the end I just accepted it as a stylistic decision. The thrill for me with Twixt was how unexpectedly entertaining it is. Kilmer doesn’t look his best but he plays the hell out of this character. You can tell he’s having fun. There’s an overall sense of a bunch of filmmakers getting back-to-basics and enjoying themselves by creating again. In my opinion Coppola has earned the right to do whatever the fuck he wants and a film like Twixt feels incredibly personal and exciting coming from him. The tale of his son’s untimely death is recounted near the end and the fact Coppola is still using his craft to exorcise inner demons rather than chasing audience needs or box-office returns is about as pure an artist can get. There’s a lot more in the pot too – I didn’t even touch on the twists of vampire mythology – and it feels like a fun peek into whatever stuff was sparking Coppola’s imagination at the time of writing.

I understand why people don’t get on board with this movie. There’s a lot to get past if your gut instinct is to assess its decisions as mistakes but if you see it as a meticulously playful and imaginative yarn about creativity and inspiration then it’s pretty damn satisfying.

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