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Twixt

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Twixt

Val Kilmer and Elle Fanning in a scene from 'Twixt.'

Zoetrope Films
I saw the poster for Francis Ford’s latest independently produced film Twixt and knew that I had to see it. There was Elle Fanning, a young actress whose career I am avidly following. She is dressed in white, a white dress, Goth, her skin a deathly white pallor and red make up ringing her eyes, an outlandish hairstyle. Elle Fanning, an adolescent vampire. I was surprised, therefore, to realize I was watching a film about writer's block.
I am a fiction writer. In addition to being a sucker for Elle Fanning films (Sofia Coppola's wonderful Somewhere, and J.J Abram's charming Super 8 to name just two), I love a good film about writers. I even love bad films about writers. A puffy and aged Val Kilmer stars at Hall Baltimore, a writer on "book tour." Not Barnes and Noble, not a local indie bookstore. In Twixt our sad writer unloads a stack of books from his car and sets up at a table at a small town hardware store.
He had my sympathy from the start. It is crazy hard to be the person hawking the book you wrote, making small talk. People will ask you if your book is available at the library, or tell you they’ll maybe buy it with their next paycheck – or like the Sheriff (Bruce Dern) who asks him to read his work. Because, when it comes down to it, everyone is a writer.

It turns out that this odd little town, a place that seems stuck in time – except for Baltimore’s shiny laptop computer – has an unsolved mystery, a serial murderer. In the town morgue, there is a dead girl, a large wooden stake prominently wedged inside the body.

Baltimore, desperate for a new idea, a new book, anything not about witches, reluctantly agrees to collaborate with the sheriff – and he learns a little bit more about the murders. More importantly, he dreams about these murders. He dreams about Virginia (Fanning) a sweet dead girl, a Goth vampire, metal braces on her teeth, tall and flat chested and somehow still impossibly beautiful, who tells him what happened. Virginia is the one who is going to give him the ending to his novel, the “bulletproof” ending that Baltimore’s literary agent – this film has one of those -- requires. Also, from the start, Baltimore loves her, loves her like a daughter.

In his dreams, Baltimore also collaborates with none other than Edgar Allan Poe (Ben Chaplin), who once stayed at the creepy hotel in town. Poe gives our hero advice on writing. Together, they learn about the town’s sinister past, the story of a pastor who murdered his charges before they could become vampires.

The actual story – the murders, the vampires – doesn’t make all that much sense. Maybe it doesn’t need to.Twixt is filmed alternately in muted color and black and white and if you are lucky enough and see it in the right theater – which I was not – partially in 3D. You never feel situated in the real world, a real story, but instead a sort of odd fairytale land.

This is fine place to go. Twixt is sometimes funny, often frightening, and always keeps you a little bit on edge. Writers sitting at their desks writing, reading their work out loud, do not generally make for great cinema, but Kilmer kills it. In one scene, his Hall Baltimore gets drunker and drunker and drunker. After writing an opening sentence and deleting it, writing an opening sentence and deleting it, he begins to narrate this one sentence, reading it in alternating voices, including a black basketball player, and then a gay, black basketball player. It’s funny, sad, and more than a little bit familiar.

It is no surprise that Baltimore has a secret pain, a dead daughter that has brought him to his sorry state. He also has an angry, angry wife (Joanne Whaley) who Skypes him at his hotel room. I rooted for this sad writer, and I gazed at beautiful dead Fanning and was happy enough to watch this unusual little film of Francis Ford Coppola’s making, the story of a man caught between two worlds, clawing his way out.

Txixt is currently screening at the Exground Festival in Wiesbaden, Germany and is playing in theaters in limited release.

  1. About.com
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  3. World / Independent Film
  4. Independent Film
  5. Fall Films 2012
  6. Twixt - A Review of Francis Ford Coppola's Twixt

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