Gardens of Stone (1987)
FAQAdd to FAQ
The following are extracts:
Chicago Tribune, Friday, May 8. 1987, s. 7, p. 3, c. 1:
Siskel's Flicks Picks
Flick of the Week: Coppola brings the Vietnam experience back home
by Gene Siskel
Our Flick of the Week is Francis Coppola's "Gardens of Stone." This is Coppola's investigation of the Vietnam experience, following his "Apocalypse Now" in 1979.
This time Coppola tells the story of the war back home by focusing on a career combat veteran (James Caan) who has been wounded emotionally because he sees his "family," the Army, beiong mortally wounded by participating in an unwinnable war.
The story involves Caan in a strained love relationship with liberal reporter (Anjelica Houston), a father-son rapport with a young volunteer (D. B. Sweeney) and a barroom commiseration with an old Army buddy (James Earl Jones).
That's too many stories for any one of them to grab our attention, but James Caan is so good in all of his roles that we never forget his haunting, fleshy, weary face, which tells us all we need to know about the effects of the war.
"Gardens of Stone" is not as good as "Platoon," but Caan's perfomrance is the equal of any in that Oscar-winning film.
"Gardens of Stone" is playing at the Water Tower and outlying theaters. Rated R. ***[three stars]
Chicago Tribune, Wednesday, May 6, 1987, s. 5, p. 3, c. 3:
Coppola's "Garden' too solemn to grow on you
by Dave Kehr movie critic
Solemn, inchoate and close to complete enervation, Francis Coppola's "Gardens of Stone" seems less a movie than a depressive sympton--a mass of feelings tha Coppola has been unable to transform into art.
It's appropriate that Coppola, who treated war as spectacle in his screenplay of "Patton" and his direction of "Apocalypse Now," should now treat the tragedy of war as spectacle, too. The film is one long pageant of mourning, symbolic gestures made in the face of an ever-encroaching void.
But Coppola isn't so much interestied in exploring the workings and function of this theater as in becoming a part of it--he, too, is hypnotized by the ritual. The film opens and closes with a burial, and there are several burials in between. "Gardens of Stone" loses whatever narrative impetus it has and becomes a passive display of grief, unfurling its images with little or no dramatic backing.
Caan, in his first movie role in five years, has the kabuki performer's distance and control: He is quiet and reflective, aching under a burden of unexpressed emotion. D. B. Sweeney, as Caan's substitute son (he lost his own in a divorce) is so pale and rigid that he seems, even when he's on screen, already a ghostly memory.
But, ultimately, it's impossible to watch "Garden of Stone" without remembeing the tragedy that intervened in Coppola's own life--the death of his son in a boating accident--during its production. The film is so distant, perhaps, because it is so close.
Chicago Sun-Times, Wednesday, May 6, 1987, p. 49, c. 1:
Dramatic moments wilt in Coppola's 'Gardens'
by Roger Ebert
** and a half stars
The garden of stone is Arlington National Cemetery, its flowers the tombstones marking the graves of the nation's heroes. The garden is tended by the Old Guard, an elite Army unit led by decorated veterans--each and every one of whom would rather be on active duty. "We're toy soldiers," one of the professional soldiers says scornfully, as the daily schedule of burial details continues to grow.
There is no way to fault any particular moment in "Gardens of Stone." The dialogue always sounds right. The emotions are always justified. The performances are wonderful (Caan and Huston have a very special chemistry). Even the jokes work.
But the movie finally doesn't add up in the way we feel it should. We think, at the beginning, that we can see where the film is headed--and at the end it turns out we were right. There is no narrative spring to uncoil, no jolt or surprise or discovery. The story is just what it seems to be, and somehow we want it to be more than that.
"Gardens of Stone" is content to be a slice of life, a story that says some of our best young people went to Vietnam and died there, and those who knew them missed them. We knew that already. Perhaps there is nothing else to be said, but this movie seems to give promise of seeing more deeply and then it doesn't Every moment is right, and yet the film as a whole is incomplete.